Cover Image: Rough Magic

Rough Magic

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Member Reviews

The Mongol Derby is supposedly the world's most challenging horse race. Raced over 1000km and 25 legs (with 25 different horses), 30 participants compete across the wild landscape of Mongolia in a feat of endurance. Lara Prior-Palmer is a privileged young woman looking for a challenge and enters the race on a whim. Not only is she the youngest ever competitor but she wins. And that’s not a spoiler as all the blurbs for the book say she wins... it’s difficult because knowing spoils the suspense but if she hadn’t won would she have got a book deal. It’s well written and does give a nice feel for the tension and pain of the race but I was disappointed in Ms Prior-Palmer's descriptions of fellow competitors. I would’ve liked to know a little more and maybe a little kinder but then this is a 19 year old stepping into a huge unknown. She does very well. 

I enjoyed the read and would recommend to anyone looking for something a bit different to take them away from the everyday. Especially if you like horses.

I was given a copy of this book by Netgalley in return for an honest review.
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I was intrigued by the true storyline in this book and enjoyed following Lara’s adventure throughout and learning about the people she encountered on the way. It was also a great insight into the determination one person can have, which reminded me of an audience with Ben Fogle that I attended. He has a very similar mindset. 
This was such an endurance feat that most of us couldn’t really imagine. I haven’t read any interviews with Lara yet (but I will!), however I didn’t get the feeling from the way the book was written that she really captures what I imagine was a hugely painful and mind blowing experience, it came across as a bit tame/ that she took it in her stride. Maybe she was playing it down a little bit fair play to you Lara; amazing achievement!! 
A good book. 
Thank you to Lara and Net Galley for the opportunity to review this book.
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A well written memoir that makes you feel the pain and hardship of riding a horse every day.
Really takes you to a country that is totally different.
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In 2013, when she was 19, Prior-Palmer won the Mongol Derby horse race: the first Briton and youngest competitor to do so. I thought her memoir couldn’t fail to be exciting, but I was wrong. A book I should have raced through was instead an agonizing crawl over many weeks. Moreover, the voice, which initially seemed quirky and jolly-ol’-English enough to keep me reading, grated. I should have given up on this one early on.

In a nutshell: spoiled rich English girl (the family seat of Appleshaw in Wiltshire; the large family with double-barreled surname; Aunt Lucinda Green, who teaches equestrian skills) doesn’t know what to do with herself so signs up for 1000-km horse race on a whim, and doesn’t realize she actually wants to win – and, crucially, beat the spoiled Texan girl, Devan Horn – until over halfway through. The book becomes mildly more interesting at this point, but not properly gripping until well over four-fifths of the pages have turned. 

The Tempest tie-in never convinced me, but my biggest problem was that the author comes across as ditsy and ever so young, and I could spot every point in the book where her editor, looking over a draft, wrote, “make this verb more interesting” or “add in an unusual metaphor here” or “insert context re: Mongolia.” And Prior-Palmer certainly obliges, but in such a way that the Mongolian information feels shoehorned in and the language jars. (Examples: “I feel the world collapsing slowly, like one of my failed banana cakes. A hoarse laugh shovels out of my throat.” and “We spun through the air like crumpets journeying out of a toaster.”)
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An enjoyable great read.
Thank you to both NetGalley and Ebury Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest unbiased review
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I found this book really inspiring- a well written memoir documenting the authors personal challenge of the most difficult horse race in the world. Lara comes across really likeable, I love her frank and honest depictions, her lack of ego and the details she gives. A great book.
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A great idea for a story following the world's toughest horse race in Mongolia. However, being told the result in the first few chapters really spoiled it for me. Also the author tends to get sue tracked and goes off on irrelevant Tranents, which is a real shame because otherwise it would be a wonderful story
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Riding in the world’s wildest horse race.

Lara Prior-Palmer was bored! She had taken a job as an au-pair hoping to improve her German, but it hadn't; instead, it drove her to want an adventure. While scrolling through the internet, she came across the details of a horse race. A race called the Mongol Derby. Lara had no idea how she was going to get the entrance fee together nor whether she would be accepted, but through sheer determination, and using her very famous equestrian aunt, Lucinda Green as a reference, she was accepted. 

Lara was not nearly as fit as she should have been at the beginning of this gruelling 1,000-kilometre race. She would ride twenty-five wild ponies who were far better treated than the competitors. The route that the race would follow was based on the “Pony Express” route Genghis Khan had created to get post delivered as quickly as possible in his Mongolian Kingdom. 

I think you would have to be slightly crazy to take on this race. You would also have to have trained for months. Not just ensuring that your riding was up to scratch, but to also ensure that you were at the top of your fitness regime. Lara was certainly not fit, nor really ready for what lay ahead, but her determination and competitive spirit ensured that she not only succeeded in her quest but won the race, breaking records along the way. 

It’s a very well written memoir. It's exciting, filled with beautiful flowing pieces of descriptive language giving us the reader, a chance to follow the race, the struggles she had and feel her interaction with the people she met. Her descriptions of the “gers” the homes of the Mongolian nomads, made me want to pack a bag and head for Mongolia so that I too could sleep in these beautiful homes. I want to see the extraordinary landscapes she describes in detail. More importantly, I want to meet and interact with these wonderful Mongolian families and perhaps even ride a pony but definitely not take part in the race. 


Breakaway Reviewers received a copy of the book to review.
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What an amazing lady. When I decided to read this I wasn’t sure quite what I’d come across, yes, I knew it was about a woman riding in the worlds toughest horse race, but that was all. I was pleasantly surprised, as I read about the horse rescue and each stage, but also got a little insight of the lady herself. She didn’t blow her own trumpet like I had possibly expected. If anything the race was more of a personal challenge; however, with the end in sight she becomes competitive and wants to win.
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This is a true story of a young impulsive woman who at nineteen years old applies and is accepted to take part in the world’s wildest horse race, the Mongol Derby. This race of endurance and stamina is staged over 25 gruelling days and 1000km of harsh and unforgiving landscape. It is known before a page is turned that she wins the race but this story is about the journey that got her there.
Arriving with little more knowledge than what is printed above, it isn’t long before she gets a taste of just what she has let her self in for. No woman has ever won this race, which makes her even more determined to be the first to do it. Some of the riders have done this race before, others full of research and probably a little too well equipped.
Each day is a learning curve to get it right tomorrow, the right choice of the 25 horses that she would ride paramount, something she had to learn by trial and error in the early days. The descriptions of the terrain were mesmerizing to me and the quotes entwined with her own writing making the whole experience a timeline account, that could have been present day or a century ago.
At times I didn’t really like the author and her attitude but I appreciated her honesty which I think was more a reflection of how young she really was. This is an exciting read that canters between the racing days where the story really does gallop along.
The race was a magnificent accomplishment and this account of the adventure of a lifetime another.
I wish to thank NetGalley for an e-copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly.
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Reading this book was exhausting enough without going near a horse!  The style left me breathless, although at times her ramblings were a bit much, but on the whole highly original and written straight from the heart.  I didn't know she'd won when I read this and at times felt the spoiler was a shame, but then again I still found it compelling to the end.  What an interesting character.
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Lara makes an intriguing protagonist – in this painfully honest memoir of a tricky time in her life when she signed up for this most testing adventure on a fairly random whim, I get a sense of a very strong determined personality who is a work-in-progress. I liked the messiness of the characterisation. She is clearly someone not comfortable in her own skin – literally, as it happens. This gawky nineteen-year-old has been suffering with chronic stomach pains that no one has been able to successfully diagnose – and as the race wore on and many of the other competitors dropped away, it did occur to me that the reason why she managed to stick it out when so many others couldn’t, is simply that she’s used to being in constant physical discomfort and pain.

I say ‘simply’, but of course real life isn’t that simple. This book isn’t just about Lara’s gritted determination to complete – and ultimately win – a particularly gruelling horse race, it’s also about her take on the stunning scenery, the people in her life – and how comfortable she feels within herself. It’s striking that when in amongst other people, what falls out of her mouth is often crass and/or simply embarrassing. She mentions near the start of the book that she hasn’t many filters and at school she was in the habit of coming out with whatever was floating through her head at the time. 

There’s a sense of her not really fitting in – not at home, or in her daily life and certainly not at the start of the race. By the end, however, it’s a different matter. The vets and race organisers begin to look upon her as a contender and there’s an implicit sense that there’s growing respect for her. Not that she mentions it – I’m not sure even now that she’s aware of how awed they were at her toughness and horsemanship. It’s striking that her main competitor pushed her horses really hard throughout, which eventually cost her the race. Mostly, Lara didn’t. 

I’m conscious that I’ve written a great deal about the protagonist and not a whole lot about the race – it’s partly because I don’t want to stray into Spoiler territory, but also because I love the fact that while one thing is going on – the race – Lara is also busy growing up…

Her descriptions of her various horses, the varying weather and stunning scenery, along with her immediate reaction to it is masterfully done. This book pulled me in and held me throughout – I found it a fascinating, layered read that told me about so much more than a very challenging horse race. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys reading about true adventures.
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I just loved this book so much. I think I'd like to drink in a pub with Lara and just have her tell me stories. She's just amazing - one of those women who refuses to be a standard teenager, never really fitting in with modern life and concrete, misunderstood I think a little by her family and teachers, but who just wants to push her boundaries.

Applying for this race on a whim...I was madness - yet she did it.

I'm just in awe of her - I truly couldn't put this book down!
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This is the story of  Lara Prior-Palmer, Lucinda’s niece, who applied to ride in the 1000 kilometer Mongol Derby on a whim. I was surprised to read that Lara didn’t come from a horse loving household, in fact, her father disliked horses intensely and the family were mainly city dwellers. The race had an exorbitant fee attached to it and at just nineteen years old, Lara didn’t have the funds to pay. However, as I would learn many, many times in this book, obstacles do not deter Lara.

The descriptions of the Mongolian landscape and the physical and mental endurance required are told in exquisite, almost poetic detail. I loved the short chapters and Lara’s modest, witty and understated way of recounting what was an incredible achievement.

I felt that race organisers, fellow participants, and even some family members lacked faith in Lara’s ability and expected her to drop out after a few days. She herself admits that she had entered the race with almost no training and little preparation. However, critics could not have known the depth of this young girl’s steely determination.

There is just one thing that bothered me a little about Rough Magic. I would have enjoyed the book more if the author had not revealed the result of the race right at the start of the book. I just feel that it would have added suspense and excitement if I was unaware of the outcome.

Lara has written not just about an amazing horse race but a beautiful, spiritual memoir set in a country that few people know about. She proves that not only is she a fine horsewoman but an incredibly talented author too.

Horse lovers, travellers, and adventurers will adore this book.
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The Mongol Derby is touted as the world's most challenging horse race. Carried out over 1000km and 25 legs (with 25 different horses), 30 participants compete across the wild landscape of Mongolia in a gruelling feat of endurance.

Lara Prior-Palmer entered the competition on a whim in 2013, having finished school and with no travel plans (or sponsor) and ended up participating in the race as the youngest ever participant at 19 years old.

The style and short, snappy chapters of this memoir mimic the rapid pace of the race itself. 3 stars only because the story felt a bit stretched out and thin in places.
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A fascinating story! Lara Prior-Palmer enters the world's toughtest horse race, across the Mongolian steppes on wild horses, on a whim. She has had no training, no experience, and no equipment. Great memoir and some fascinating insight into Mongolian life and culture.
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I give this book 3*. It's a book which contains everything I love, horses, travel and adventure.Some excellent descriptive passages of the Mongolian landscape and a good recount of riding in the world's toughest horse race. Some lovely prose and a good insight into the feelings of Lara throughout her journey. One for horse lovers. Thanks to Net Galley for my ARC. Reviews on Goodreads and Facebook.
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Given Ms Prior-Palmer's self-deprecation of her performance in school, you don't really expect such a wonderfully descriptive, and achingly evocative narrative.  Lara enters the world's toughest horse race on a whim, as she seems to do most things in her short life. Her fellow competitors have been preparing for a year, she barely has a month. She's not even a born horsewoman, although she has ridden a bit, at weekends when down at the cottage they have near her famous aunt (who's away half the time). So preparation to ride 8 hours a day for two weeks is not founded on a secure base.

She combines the unfolding of the race itself with flashbacks of her past, and anecdotes about other people, or writings from Mongolians authors and poets.  It's a charming combination, and it works.

Oh, how it works! I can't recall any other book where I've highlighted so many gorgeous turns of phrase.

For example:

+ I can't rid myself of the sensation I'm about to fall off the world, as you might fall off the back of a treadmill

+ This feels to me like some place across the river, across the boundary—not the middle of nowhere but the centre of old dreams and unthought-of ideas

+ I'm an anyone, just like everyone, living out my days in the nooks and crannies between the labels, appearing as someone different to each person I know

+ The light has spread her pre-dark colours, those shades of dusk that match the temperature of dreams

She has a talent for bringing landscape to life on the page like no other I've read. I think the secret of her success is: she lives in the moment. She goes with the flow.  She understands the flow.  Lara is aware of her surroundings, both in the race and at home, whatever forward or back motion it brings. It seems to suit the half-tamed Mongolian horses (about the size of Shetland ponies), and their owners, who recognise her ability to blend with them.  We are treated to pictures of the rest of the competitors; the most hardened, experienced and focused of them is probably least in tune with either their surroundings or the horses.

Even the food is interesting. I'm glad I didn't have to eat it.

Magical, brilliant, evocative. It's compulsive reading for travellers, lovers of wild spaces, and horse-lovers. Maybe not for gourmands.

And I particularly like the inclusion of some recommended reading by Mongolian authors.
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Lara Prior Palmer's momentous journey to Mongolia is captured in this wonderfully humorous autobiography, in which she enters one of the most difficult horse riding competitions in the world. 

With very little experience, the teenage Prior-Palmer tests herself to the extreme, crossing 1000km through the desolate steppes. Through intense heat, and at times battling illness, Prior-Palmer seems to surprise all, making this literary marvel a tale of real fortitude, sheer grit and a woman's journey facing herself. I thoroughly enjoyed this unexpected book.
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Fascinating idea to do an endurance horse race in Mongolia - esp at such a young age.  The author is interesting and engagingly self-effacing but the book overall felt a little thin.
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