The Sport of Kings

C. E. Morgan

Hellsmouth, a willful thoroughbred filly with the blood of Triple Crown winners flowing through her veins, has the legacy of the Forges riding on her. One of the oldest and proudest families in Kentucky, the Forge family is as mythic as the history of the South itself. Descended from one of the first settlers to brave the Gap, Henry Forge, through an act of naked ambition, is attempting to blaze a new path, breeding horses on the family’s crop farm. His daughter, Henrietta, becomes his partner in the endeavour, although she has desires of her own. Their conflict escalates when Allmon Shaughnessy, a black man fresh from prison, comes to work in the stables, and the ugliness of the farm’s past and the exigencies of appetite become evident. Together, the three stubbornly try to create a new future through sheer will – one that isn’t written in their very fabric – while they mold Hellsmouth into a champion.

The Sport of Kings has the grace of a parable and the force of an epic. A majestic story of speed and hunger, racism and justice, this novel is an astonishment from start to finish.

Reviews of The Sport of Kings

  • ‘CE 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 and American Rust

    ‘In this century, 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 …There will not be a novel with a larger and more dazzlingly deployed vocabulary published this year … Constantly invigorating, surprising and transfixing’ TLS

    ‘A high literary epic of America. Long and dense, violent and strident … portentous … majestic’ Sunday Telegraph

    ‘That Morgan’s second novel is an achievement is beyond doubt … Morgan barely draws breath as she chronicles the fortunes of Henry Forge’ Observer

    ‘Fich and compulsive … This epic feat of storytelling confirms Morgan as the new torchbearer of the Southern Gothic tradition … She is such an immersive storyteller, with such a vivid sense of place, such a true ear for dialogue, and so subtle a gift of characterisation … Her prose is often ravishingly beautiful, displaying an unerring instinct for metaphor and music … By the time I was 100 pages in, my English cynicism at the spectacle of another author setting out to write the Great American Novel had dissolved into wonder and delight: C.E. Morgan has come close to realising that very thing’ Financial Times

    ‘Morgan’s novel is big news … think of Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life’ The Sunday Times

    ‘There were moments while reading this sprawling, ambitious novel when I thought I was reading a masterpiece … At times my compulsion to read on was like a physical force’ Spectator