The novel was first published in 1826 by Carey & Lea, of Philadelphia. According to Susan Cooper, its success was "greater than that of any previous book from the same pen" and "in Europe the book produced quite a startling effect."
Cooper's novels were popular, but reviewers were often critical, or dismissive. For example, the reviewer of the London Magazine (May 1826) described the novel as "clearly by much the worst of Mr Cooper's performances." Mark Twain notably derided the author in his essay, "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses," published in North American Review (July 1895). Twain complained that Cooper lacked a variety of style and was overly wordy. In the essay, Twain re-writes a small section of The Last of the Mohicans, claiming that Cooper, "the generous spendthrift", used 100 "extra and unnecessary words" in the original version.
Re-reading the book in his later years, Cooper noted some inconsistencies of plot and characterization, particularly the character of Munro. But, he wrote that in general, "the book must needs have some interest for the reader, since it could amuse even the writer, who had in a great measure forgotten the details of his own work."