...[a] magnificent and tragic new history ... Sharfstein is a wonderful storyteller with a deep knowledge of all the relevant source material from the period. His narrative is rich with fascinating historical details ... However vivid the material and well-structured the narrative, the story is inescapably tragic and often painful to read. It’s a powerful reminder that Americans live on lands stolen by force and without provocation. It’s also a tantalizing glimpse of a possible future that never materialized.
...the structure of Thunder in the Mountains is simple and direct, exploring the lives of each man toward their ultimate meeting, the heart-wrenching details of the conflict at the book’s center and the ways in which the war forever changed both men and drove them — and many of those closest to them — toward a sense of mutual understanding. While the book is a thorough and well-documented work of history, it delves into the human condition like the best fiction, offering insights not only into historical events but also into the ways people can grow and evolve ... Thunder in the Mountains is a great and bloody war story to be sure, but it is also a careful meditation on human rights, the reach of government, and the power of a lone voice speaking truth.
The great achievement of Sharfstein's chronicle of the specific tragedy of the Nez Perce is to render this past both vivid and newly painful ... The first third or so of Thunder in the Mountains is meandering and expository. But in describing the Nez Perce's battle-pocked flight east, across mountains and rivers and toward potential freedom in Canada, Sharfstein's narrative becomes intimate, propulsive and ultimately heart-breaking ... serve[s] as both a compassionate military history and a shrewd examination of how cultural legends are created.