Book Review

Book Review: Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of US Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan by Doug Stanton

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: Non-fiction, history, war
Length: 393 pages
Author: Doug Stanton
Publisher: Scribner
Release Date: May 5th, 2009
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads


The inspiration for the major motion picture 12 Strong from Jerry Bruckheimer, starring Chris Hemsworth and Michael Shannon.

From the New York Times bestselling author of In Harm’s Way comes a true-life story of American soldiers overcoming great odds to achieve a stunning military victory.

Horse Soldiers is the dramatic account of a small band of Special Forces soldiers who secretly entered Afghanistan following 9/11 and rode to war on horses against the Taliban. Outnumbered forty to one, they pursued the enemy army across the mountainous Afghanistan terrain and, after a series of intense battles, captured the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, which was strategically essential to defeat their opponent throughout the country.

The bone-weary American soldiers were welcomed as liberators as they rode into the city, and the streets thronged with Afghans overjoyed that the Taliban regime had been overthrown.

Then the action took a wholly unexpected turn. During a surrender of six hundred Taliban troops, the Horse Soldiers were ambushed by the would-be POWs. Dangerously overpowered, they fought for their lives in the city’s immense fortress, Qala-i-Janghi, or the House of War. At risk were the military gains of the entire campaign: if the soldiers perished or were captured, the entire effort to outmaneuver the Taliban was likely doomed.

Deeply researched and beautifully written, Stanton’s account of the Americans’ quest to liberate an oppressed people touches the mythic. The soldiers on horses combined ancient strategies of cavalry warfare with twenty-first-century aerial bombardment technology to perform a seemingly impossible feat. Moreover, their careful effort to win the hearts of local townspeople proved a valuable lesson for America’s ongoing efforts in Afghanistan.

Note: I’m not here to debate the war, politics, etc. This is purely a review of how I thought the book was put together and how the author conveyed the story. Please keep that in mind.


For more than one reason.

One of those reasons is the sheer mass of knowledge and facts that were added. I’m not sure this needed nearly 400 pages to say everything the author did. Yes, he definitely did his homework, but goodness, it was dense. I occasionally skimmed to move everything along.

Another reason was the heaviness that is war. In detail — injuries, death, and more was conveyed throughout these pages. I literally cringed at the thought of every one involved having to witness and withstand these horrors.

I liked that the Special Forces (and other portions of the military) were explained. I personally don’t have anyone immediate that is in the military so I didn’t understand all the pieces that go into being part of it.

There were A LOT of people involved in this story. And the author let you know about them alllll. I think it took me at least 100+ pages to remember who was who and what group they were apart of.

The only thing that bothered me was how all of these soldiers now have their names and faces planted everywhere. We live in such a digital age that I wonder how often media hurts more than helps (answer: often). They deserved to stay as private as they choose.

My lower rating is mostly attributed to how tough this book felt to get through. It wasn’t an easy read and I struggled to read more than 20 pages at a time. This in no way takes away from what the soldiers accomplished. As I said in my note, this is specifically about the book.

Overall audience notes:

  • History: military, war
  • Language: occasional (recounts of the dialogue)
  • Violence: descriptions of: torture, battle wounds, treatment of women, and more

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