Riding the world’s wildest horse race
The extraordinary story of Lara Prior-Palmer’s unlikely victory in the world’s toughest horse race, the Mongol Derby, retracing the footsteps of Genghis Khan’s route across Mongolia as she undertakes a remarkable journey of self-discovery.
'Such an addictive and likeable book...One of this year's best memoirs' The Telegraph
'It’s the resistance to the obvious narratives that makes Rough Magic so appealing: the book undermines lazy women-in-the-wilderness tropes at every turn.' Sarah Moss, Guardian
'A heroic take beautifully told' TLS
'Rough Magic is transporting, beguiling and terrifically entertaining' Daily Mail
The Mongol Derby is the world’s toughest horse race. A feat of endurance across the vast Mongolian plains once traversed by the people of Genghis Khan, competitors ride 25 horses across a distance of 1000km. Many riders don’t make it to the finish line.
In 2013 Lara Prior-Palmer – nineteen, underprepared but seeking the great unknown – decided to enter the race. Driven by her own restlessness, stubbornness, and a lifelong love of horses, she raced for seven days through extreme heat and terrifying storms, catching a few hours of sleep where she could at the homes of nomadic families. Battling bouts of illness and dehydration, exhaustion and bruising falls, she found she had nothing to lose, and tore through the field with her motley crew of horses. In one of the Derby’s most unexpected results, she became the youngest-ever champion and the first woman to win the race.
A tale of adventure, fortitude and poetry, Rough Magic is the extraordinary story of one young woman’s encounter with oblivion, and herself.
“Think the next Educated or Wild. Palmer’s memoir of beating the odds to become a horse champion is an inspiring saga of perseverance — and a classic underdog tale.”
“Prior-Palmer's style is a fascinating mix of pep and poignancy. A really terrific story by a spirited new voice.”
“[Prior-Palmer's] gorgeous, sensual depiction of this race is a literary marvel; it feels like you are riding alongside her across the desolate steppes; her verbal acuity makes vivid the most elusive of landscapes; her triumph becomes ours.”
“Filled with soulful self-reflection and race detail, this fast-paced page-turner is a thrill ride from start to finish.”
“Feisty and exhilarating . . . Horse lovers will adore this inspiring and spirited memoir.”
“In this sensual, spiritual memoir, Prior-Palmer recounts her grueling journey through immense physical hardship, and her surprising transformation from underdog to champion”
“Prior-Palmer may be a gifted equestrian, but also she’s a born writer. . . . The journey, told through Prior Palmer’s voice, would’ve been interesting even without the satisfaction of victory”
“Prior-Palmer writes with a dash and boldness few writers possess. . . Her narrative alchemy is remarkable”
“An astonishing and hair-raising memoir that you, too, will race to finish.”
“Such an addictive and likeable book. It’s not really about horse riding. It’s about female nonconformity and a desire to plug into the thrills and torments of existence *****”
“It’s the resistance to the obvious narratives that makes Rough Magic so appealing: the book undermines lazy women-in-the-wilderness tropes at every turn.”
Sarah Moss, Guardian
“Rough Magic is transporting, beguiling and terrifically entertaining.”
“A heroic tale beautifully told”