Written by the youngest and only female winner of the annual Mongol Derby - a long and Kafkaesque journey across the Mongolian Steppe on 25 different horses - this book is one of the most astonishing I've ever read about the relationship of humans to animals. For any former Horse Girl, and anyone weary of books that interest themselves only in navel-gazing human concerns, I promise you will not be able to put this down, you will, as I did, miss subway stops and leave parties early to finish it.
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
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 recreates the horse messenger system developed by Genghis Khan, and 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. Told with terrific suspense and style, 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.