Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Sport of Kings

The Sport of Kings

A Novel

C. E. Morgan

Farrar, Straus and Giroux




Hellsmouth, an indomitable Thoroughbred with the blood of Triple Crown winners in her veins, runs for the glory of the Forge family, one of Kentucky’s oldest and most powerful dynasties. Henry Forge has partnered with his daughter, Henrietta, in an endeavor of raw obsession: to breed the next superhorse, the next Secretariat. But when Allmon Shaughnessy, an ambitious young black man, comes to work on their farm, the violence of the Forges’ history and the exigencies of appetite are brought starkly into view. Entangled in fear, prejudice, and lust, the three tether their personal dreams of glory to the speed and grace of Hellsmouth.

A spiraling tale of wealth and poverty, racism and rage, The Sport of Kings is an unflinching portrait of lives cast in shadow by the enduring legacy of slavery. C. E. Morgan, who received a 2016 Windham–Campbell Prize for Fiction, has given life to a tale as mythic and fraught as the South itself—a moral epic for our time.

NPR Best Book of the Year, Kirkus Prize Finalists, Pulitzer Prize - Finalist, Best Books of the Year, The Telegraph (UK) Best Books of the Year, San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year, Wall Street Journal Best Books of the Year, New York Times Book Review Notable Books of the Year, Folio Prize Shortlist, Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year, Entertainment Weekly Best Books of the Year, Kirkus Prize Winner, Booklist Editors' Choice, Women's Prize for Fiction - Shortlist




Your spirit will spread little by little through the whole great body of empire, joining all things in the shape of your likeness.


“Henry Forge, Henry Forge!”



Praise for The Sport of Kings

New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2016

NPR Best Books of 2016

“Remarkable achievements . . . The Sport of Kings hovers between fiction, history, and myth, its characters sometimes like the ancient ones bound to their tales by fate, its horses distant kin to those who drew the chariot of time across the sky . . . Novelists can do things that other writers can’t—and Morgan can do things that other novelists can’t . . . Tremendous, the work of a writer just starting to show us what she can do.” —Kathryn Shultz, The New Yorker

"Ravishing and ambitious . . . It’s a mud-flecked epic, replete with fertile symbolism, that hurtles through generations of Kentucky history . . . [Morgan is]an interior writer, with deep verbal and intellectual resources. . . Ms. Morgan bears down incisively on topics — the lust for speed and power and domination, the prison experience of black men, male camaraderie, the bonds between fathers and sons, the brute intricacies of the dirty Southern soul — that men have tended to claim . . . [A] serious and important novel.”—Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“Morgan’s storytelling abilities match her deep characterization — part of which is that she’s a writer of real virtuosity, and the narrative includes some of her set-piece 'lessons,' mock interviews, synthetic parables, and a retelling of the Eden myth in the style of Uncle Remus . . . Her concerns are Faulknerian in scope.” — Madison Smartt Bell, The Boston Globe

“One literary stereotype associates long, sprawling, ambitious novels with male writers . . . In this century, however, the finest 'major' novels have more often than not been written by women. Zadie Smith, Donna Tartt, Eleanor Catton, Meg Wolitzer and Elena Ferrante are among those hitting the long balls in contemporary fiction, and with The Sport of Kings, a world-encompassing colossus second novel, C. E. Morgan has joined their ranks . . . Morgan is a virtuoso stylist, easily rendering the kinetics of horseracing, then plunging beneath the surface to illuminate the mysteries of genetic science. There will not be a novel with a larger and more dazzlingly deployed vocabulary published this year.” —Michael LaPointe, The Times Literary Supplement

“Majestic and sorrowful . . . With this extraordinary work, C. E. Morgan moves into the front rank of contemporary writers.” —Wendy Smith, Newsday

“Vivid epic of rage and racism on a Kentucky stud farm exposes the myth of the American dream.” —The Spectator (UK)

"Spirited, fast and almost perfectly formed.” —The Times (London)

“With The Sport of Kings, C. E. Morgan has delivered a masterpiece. Rich, deep, and ambitious, this book is, by any standard, a Great American Novel.” —Philipp Meyer, author of The Son

“[The Sport of Kings] is an epic novel steeped in American history and geography . . . Morgan’s gothic tale of Southern decadence deepens into a searing investigation of racism’s enduring legacy . . . Vaultingly ambitious, thrillingly well-written, charged with moral fervor and rueful compassion. How will this dazzling writer astonish us next time?” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Morgan has dared to write the kind of book that was presumed long extinct: a high literary epic of America.” —Duncan White, The Telegraph (UK)

“[A] gorgeously textured novel ... Henrietta, possibly the most intellectually resplendent heroine I’ve met in a novel . . . C. E. Morgan has more nerve, linguistic vitality and commitment to cosmic thoroughness in one join of her little finger than the next hundred contemporary novelists have in their entire bodies and vocabularies . . . Nothing short of genius.” —Jaimy Gordon, The New York Times Book Review

“Sport of Kings boasts a plot that maintains tension and pace, and Morgan weaves its characters, its themes, its several histories together in a marvelous display of literary control and follow-through.” —Katherine A. Powers, Christian Science Monitor

“[A] rich and compulsive new novel . . . This book confirms [Morgan] as the new torchbearer of the Southern Gothic tradition . . . What emerges is a panoramic view of race relations in America, from the slow crumbling of the Jim Crow laws until shortly before the election of Barack Obama, with occasional glimpses into the more distant past. Racing provides the novel’s overarching metaphor for race (a set of tracks that determine the course of a life, and for which the correct breeding is essential), and Morgan’s white characters are hardly less constricted by history than her black ones. . . It’s a bleak and bitter inversion of the American dream — a world in which circumstances are impossible to change, and legacies impossible to shake.” —Edmund Gordon, The Financial Times

“A torchbearer for the new southern Gothic tradition.” —Financial Times

“The splendor and barbarism of horse racing and the legacy of slavery are just two of the threads in this sprawling, magisterial Southern Gothic for the 21st century.” —O, The Oprah Magazine

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

C. E. Morgan

C. E. Morgan lives with her husband, Will Guild, in Berea, Kentucky. She is the author of All the Living.

C. E. Morgan

C. E. Morgan

From the Publisher

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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