Take a wild ride around Mongolia with Lara Prior-Palmer, mounted on steeds of varying opinions as to the merits of ferrying around unknown riders. Most have a ritual for beginning the ride with a good buck, aimed at unseating the rider as efficiently as possible. Once that little bit of etiquette is behind them, some gallop off with power, chewing up the wind as their sturdy legs take them up and over mountains, across plains, through meadows to the next station where they will be exchanged for a new mount. Others are less than thrilled with the whole idea, resentful of this new human on their backs, they will either continue trying to dislodge the rider or refuse to travel at a pace faster than a walk.
On an impulse, the author seems prone to impulses, Lara enters the Mongol Derby, a brutal 1,000-kilometer race around Gengis Khan’s country riding Mongol ponies. Lara has an effortless sense of glee and a lively talent for splashing her exuberance across the page in a delightful tale of a true adventure. I liked that vets check the ponies frequently and penalize riders who did not take their well being into proper account. Lara’s tale has all the elements of a proper adventure; half wild horses, an untamed land, and a to the wire rivalry with a determined Texan as they vie to be the first woman to win the Mongol Derby. There is an ABC documentary on the race to watch after you read this lively account.— Deon Stonehouse
May 2019 Indie Next List
“Lara Prior-Palmer’s journey in the Mongol Derby is one of excitement, pain, and profound inner dialogue. There was not a moment in this fast-paced memoir where my attention wavered. Prior-Palmer weaves a coming-of-age tale with expert grace and worldly knowledge alongside an intensely riveting competition against herself and the land. Rough Magic is a fantastically written and introspective memoir worthy of great praise.”
— Travis McGuire, Skylark Bookshop, Columbia, MO
"Taking off on a horse into the Mongolian Steppe sounds like the bracing inverse to an overpopulated, busy urban life, but having the skills and grit to pull it off is another thing entirely. . . . Lara Prior-Palmer attempted the Mongol Derby not really knowing what she was getting into; she ended it knowing much more about herself, and a race champion besides." ―Estelle Tang, Elle
At the age of nineteen, Lara Prior-Palmer discovered a website devoted to "the world's longest, toughest horse race"―an annual competition of endurance and skill that involves dozens of riders racing a series of twenty-five wild ponies across 1,000 kilometers of Mongolian grassland. On a whim, she decided to enter the race. As she boarded a plane to East Asia, she was utterly unprepared for what awaited her.
Riders often spend years preparing to compete in the Mongol Derby, a course that re-creates the horse messenger system developed by Genghis Khan. Many fail to finish. Prior-Palmer had no formal training. She was driven by her own restlessness, stubbornness, and a lifelong love of horses. She raced for ten 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 decided she had nothing to lose. Each dawn she rode out again on a fresh horse, scrambling up mountains, swimming through rivers, crossing woodlands and wetlands, arid dunes and open steppe, as American television crews chased her in their jeeps.
Told with terrific suspense and style, in a voice full of poetry and soul, Rough Magic captures the extraordinary story of one young woman who forged ahead, against all odds, to become the first female winner of this breathtaking race.
"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." --Entertainment Weekly
About the Author
LARA PRIOR-PALMER was born in London in 1994. She studied conceptual history and Persian at Stanford University. In 2013, she competed in the 1,000-kilometer Mongol Derby in Mongolia, sometimes described as the world's toughest and longest horse race, and became the first woman to win the race, and the youngest person ever to finish. Rough Magic is her first book.