Cover Image: Rough Magic

Rough Magic

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Member Reviews

i've wanted to read this book for a long time and it didn't disappoint!

you would think a memoir about a woman competing in the world’s longest horse race would be a very niche book for a very small, very horse dedicated audience. but you’d be wrong! 

18 year old lara throws herself into this race that’s held in mongolia and is a tribute to the horse messenger system developed by genghis khan in 1224 and emerges, and this isn’t a spoiler, as the winner

knowing she’s the winner early on takes some of the urgency out of the book and it unfolds as a beautiful discussion on life and nature and doing what’s right for you. i loved the dips into mongolian culture and landscape as well as the lookback at lara's life. 

i read this slowly over the course of a few weeks, a few minutes every morning on my bus to work, and it felt like such a comfort, following this woman on her journey 

i would recommend this to people who are interested in horses and horse racing but also, like me, people who are just into long, earned success stories with a compassionate and loving narrator. loved this!
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I enjoy reading debut novels and discovering new writing talents, and I am glad I picked up Rough Magic. This is the story of Londoner Lara Prior-Palmer who, at the tender age of 19, decided to take part in the Mongol Derby, a race across 1,000 km of steppe in Mongolia. With no previous formal training or equine prowess, Lara raced for ten days through unforgiving temperatures, injuries and utter exhaustion, getting to know some nomadic families along the course and getting to know herself better. Despite all the odds and as a testament to her indomitable spirit, Lara ended up the youngest-ever and first female winner of this arduous race. Written in lyrical, engaging style, this novel tells us much about the human spirit and also shines a spotlight on an enormous landmass of a country that few of us know anything about. Six times larger than the UK, Mongolia has just over 3 million residents, and the lifestyle of some of them is conveyed to us through the pages of this brilliant book. Warmly recommended! I am very grateful to the publishers and NetGalley for my ARC in exchange for this honest and unbiased review.
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Wow! What an amazing story and an amazing adventure the author took me on as she recounts her decision to take part in the Mongol Derby. Not only is it the world's wildest horse race, but it is also the loneliest and one of the most gruelling. Riders ride the equivalent to two marathons a day.

Most riders prepare and train for this race, not however Lara. She impulsively decides to sign up and she is only 19 years old. She doesn't have any prep, she is unprepared but her impulsive nature is something that will carry her across the 100km. The Derby is in recognition of Ghengis Khan's postal riders and the great distances they traversed.

This is a country where horses are revered, the safety and health of the horses are paramount and the horses are changed at each leg of the 25 legs of the race. Time penalties are given for a horse who has been overworked or has been ridden past the cut-off point for each day.

This is an amazing journey and one that I absolutely enjoyed as Lara filled in details of each stage and also her emotions and feelings as she rides. For someone that is so unprepared her journey is quite remarkable, it is the endurance of the rider that is the challenge and if they can last the course both mentally and physically.

A remarkable story of determination and as soon as I had finished it I wandered over to the internet to watch videos and put faces to the people mentioned. This is a story of an intrepid adventure that is fraught with danger and difficulty. That see's Lara not only become the youngest person to win the race but also the first female!

An outstanding read that I would highly recommend.
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What a fabulous read.  You don't have to know anything about horses to enjoy this fast paced memoir.  The transition from bored nonchalance to obsession quickens the pace of the writing, and the reader is drawn into the excitement as we get to the finishing line.  Facts about Mongolia and snippets of poetry add to the enjoyment of the book.  A very memorable book and I have already recommended this one to friends.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this chronicle of the Mongol Derby. Beautifully written and insightful, it's packed full with interesting facts and incidents that occurred along the gruelling 25 stage race, as well as how the author coped with the isolation, boredom and lack of food and toilet facilities.
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To quote from the Book "The Valley floor is as soothing as a Bath after a long day ."

What an extraordinary journey for a young woman to take on board at just 19, or was it because she deep down wished to do something wild in her last year as a teenager , that wouldn't result in any damage or harm !Laura's Race , the Animals she rode all with their own unique personalities, which took her across the vast and differing landscapes that make up the Mongolian Steppe! Once I started the book I couldn't put it down & ended up reading it throughout the night . A great read for anyone who loves Ponies and Horses , adventure , geography and escaping the craziness of the world as it is during this awful Pandemic , even more so when your having to Shield until next year .
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I started with some trepidation:- horses, competition and teenage adventure did not seem to fit my usual reading choices, but I was enthralled by the spirit and obvious passion which Lara expresses with such warmth and honesty. This is not the usual monologue of triumph over adversity in far flung places. At times the window into her mind is too clear, as she admits to finding fault with her feelings without guile, and she is truthful about her weaknesses. She is most of all absolutely in touch with the horse she rides, feeling a sympathetic connection to her companion despite some of the horses being less than desirable to complete such a gruelling race. I really enjoyed her insight into the Mongolian world and doubt if any of the other competitors had the knowledge she acquired about her surroundings, even if it was picked up later. I loved the poetry of it, and felt the connection with the land and the horses through her writing.
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This is an autobiographical adventure story by a young author brave enough to question the cornerstone of modern morality. Everything in the modern world, not just the modern “Western World” but the whole modern world, is founded on ambition. We are educated toward realising our ambitions; our families are both part of our ambitions and a support mechanism for the essential business of ambition-realisation; we are deviant if we measure success in any way other than the realisation of ambitions. For the moment, we are sometimes allowed to hold ambitions which are not hurtful to our fellow-man, perhaps even ones that help him, but even that, in the current model of morality, serves to beautify the single-minded pursuit of ambitions. Lara Prior Palmer shows us that ambitions are not an undiluted virtue and that unbridled ambition ought not to allow one to win a horse race, especially not the “World’s Wildest Horse Race”, the Mongol Derby. 

At age nineteen, having failed to get into Oxford University, the author decides, on something a bit less decisive than a whim, to raise money and take part in the Mongol Derby, after applications to take part had officially closed. This leaves her with no time to carry out the essential preparations, or even discover basic facts about Mongolia or the race. Her account is sprinkled with all the facts and small gems of Mongolian literature, philosophy and folklore which she didn’t know at the time and found out about as she went along or afterwards -and this enriches the book because it immerses the reader in the author’s learning experience rather than grandly impressing the author’s knowledge upon us. After the pre-race briefing, where the author learns the rules and even the basic structure of the race for the first time (to the disbelief and derision of officials and other riders), a well-supported young, female Texan rider makes an ambitious prediction of her own performance, which sets the author against her. The author is not, initially, seen as having any chance at all of winning, nor, of course, does she harbour any such ambition. 

But, not having learnt anything beforehand, and finding that attempts by the communist regime in Mongolia to impose the modern world on the country have had very little impact in the countryside, the author learns the ropes as she goes along, rides what she is given without over-stressing any of her mounts (there are heart-rate checks after each leg) and eventually discovers that she is now seen as a potential winner. Despite a considerable language barrier, she accepts the advice of Mongolian herdsmen when other riders are trying to impose their will on the Mongolians. Sometimes this does not work well, but most of the time it works well enough.

An enjoyable book, and frequently thought-provoking, too.
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Set in a part of the world I have no knowledge or understanding of, this book opened my world to new places and traditions- it actually added a country to my to visit list. I loved the strong female lead, she’s is brave and maybe a little bonkers, but I couldn’t help loving her 
Tenacity. For me this was such an interesting read- I never knew events like this really happened.
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A sincere thank you to the publisher, author and Netgalley for providing me with an ebook copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

This is not my usual genre,  however I wanted to take the opportunity to read something from outside my norm. And I am glad I did!! Thank you for  opening up my mind to something totally different. Characters were so well developed that I felt as though I knew them. I love when a book draws you into the story and it feels like you are living it with them.
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I do not know anything about horses but this book was still interesting to read. The author’s enthusiasm and her desire and determination to finish and maybe win the race make this an intriguing read.

Thank you to Netgalley for my copy.
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The world's hardest horse race is The Mongol Derby. Lara Prior-Palmer accidentally on purpose clicked apply. You can read about sports stars in newspapers but this book reveals what you don't see.
I loved this book. Lara Prior-Palmer tells the story and comes across quite quirky and funny,really edgy with her writing style. She won the race and she was the youngest ever and also the first female. Her story is of hope and achieving ones goals and dreams. Even if the odds are stacked against you. A truly breathtaking book of courage and coming of age. It is quite the page turner in the fast and dangerous world of The Mongol Derby.
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A truly inspirational read, the story of how Laura becomes the youngest ever person to win the mongol derby. Believed to be one of the worlds toughest races. Sure to be enjoyed by any horse lover or travel enthusiast.
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Lara entered the Mongol Derby on a whim,  and was obviously the most unprepared competitor both mentally and physically but she went on to be the first woman and the youngest person to win the race. It is supposed to be the most grueling race ever and having to cross rough terrain on almost wild ponies changing mount at every station means that it was an incredible feat. 

I enjoyed the book as it was an amazing story but I did struggle slightly with the writing style and also felt that she told too many stories about herself rather than the ponies and the actual riding
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A truly inspirational memoir, beautifully written. Lara Prior-Palmer became the first Briton - and the youngest-ever competitor overall - to win the Mongol Derby in 2013, and this is her account of this experience. It's a joy to see the world through Lara's eyes and feels like a real adventure.
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I love that Lara Prior-Palmer entered this race out of boredom and was totally ill equipped with not even the entry money.  Her observations of the other competitors and humans in general are accurate and often very funny.  

This is a beautifully written memoir, full of humour, honesty and atmosphere.

"Ask again - what is it that horses can do for us? - and still I can't give a precise answer. When I arrive at a horse's side, I'm amazed I ever managed to forget that they in themselves could be my destination. I feel calm"
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Why does a 19 year old girl enter a 1000 kilometre horseback race across the Mongolian steppes without training, without the money for the entry fee and without even thinking through what kit she needs?  Well, and I suspect it's the reason she wins the race, Lara just loves horses and can't help but respect each one's character.  Since the race itself involves 23 stages and 23 different horses this trait proves invaluable. Why? The rules dictate you can't move on until your horse's heart rate returns to 62bpm. For Lara this is the key to her victory as her transitions are invariably short. But this adventure is really more about Lara finding herself as she makes her way over the wide steppes of Mongolia. Often completely alone she has time to chat to her horse, think and even philosophise. Although he whole adventure only lasts 10 days Lara nonetheless presents us with an immensely enjoyable and honest book. She is clearly no mean rider and, judging by this book, no mean author either !
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This is a really fantastic memoir, loaded with action and building constantly as you follow Prior-Palmer on her race. The writing is beautiful, the imagery intense and the sense of overwhelming freedom and choice makes for a really wild ride. Absolutely loved it.
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This was an “out of my usual genre” book and one I’m not sure about. It’s a first person account of a gruelling endurance horse race across Mongolia.  I’m not into horses either, and don’t think you need to be either. The book explores the rider’s experiences of the race, comparing and contrasting them to growing up in England. There’s rivalry, obviously - it’s a race, and an unexpected outcome, even to the storyteller it seems, who seems to do things by chance.  The race is only 7 days (that’s easy for me to say from my armchair) and somehow that is lost as you’re caught up in the chase from station to station. .
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I initially requested this book on NetGalley because my horse-loving-self couldn’t pass up on a book with a horse on the front cover. I’m a sucker for anything horse related so seeing the cover and the title of the book had me pressing the ‘Request’ button faster than you can correctly pronounce ‘dressage’. 

We are told the exciting memoir of Lara, a 19-year-old who decides to participate (and ended up winning) the world's longest, hardest horse race in Mongolia despite having very little experience in horse riding compared to her fellow competitors. 

However, the author’s writing style isn’t exactly my cup of tea as I feel like it lacked substance at times. I never felt engaged with the storyline and often found myself skim reading a couple of lines halfway through the book. That being said I did get used to the author’s way of writing soon enough, and was able to emerge myself more fully into the narrative. 

One thing I appreciated the most was the author’s ability to bring the setting to life. Every single landscape is described so well that you can’t help but fully visualise the serenity of the scenes. 

This book is a must read for travellers, horse-lovers like me, and those who appreciate living on the wild side of life.

4 stars. 

Thank you NetGalley and Penguin Random House UK, Ebury Publishing for providing me with an advanced reader's copy 'Rough Magic' by Lara Prior-Palmer
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