Desert Isle Keeper
Tournament of Losers
I’ve decided – Megan Derr is one of my new favorite authors. Tournament of Losers is a bit on the short side at only 67K words, but definitely tells the complete story of Rath, dock worker and former prostitute (well, still an occasional prostitute, but at 33, it’s not really a full-time gig anymore), who needs cash fast. The only way to get the amount he needs, in the time frame he needs, is to join the Tournament of Charlet, not-so-affectionately known as the Tournament of Losers. This Tournament is supposed to bring new blood into the nobility by testing the commoners for basic traits like common sense, heart, sense of self and sacrifice, etc, but is generally thought (known) to be rigged.
Rath starts this book waking up rather violently to his father’s creditors, and having to kick his evening company out. That company, however, doesn’t stay gone; Tress (once Rath learns his name), is actually a noble of some sort, but won’t tell Rath who exactly he is, especially once Rath enters the Tournament. Any interference from nobility can get the contestant disqualified, and Rath needs the money too much.
The plan, though, is to just last long enough for the stipend. Somehow, though, Rath not only succeeds in the various tests and quests, but excels.
The thing I enjoyed the most is just how down-to-earth Rath is. He’s kind and hard-working, but also wonderfully snarky. There’s a moment where he’s supposed to take a certain amount of money and use it to get the best deals at a variety of businesses in the city. And he gets pissed – why waste the day shopping when he already knows what the best deals are? After all, he’s dealt with all the shops personally as a laborer. And he snarks all over the guy who had given them the challenge. And he wins.
That is actually how most of the story goes – Rath’s life experience gives him a definite edge in a lot of the challenges, and even when he’s trying to fail, he can’t really help himself. It’s funny, but he naturally wants to do his best, even if he’s not really planning on winning.
Rath is also willing to do whatever he must to survive and refuses to feel ashamed about it. He has no problem going to the madam he’s worked with before when confronted with the astronomical debt before him. He’s got such great common sense that I’m actually a bit jealous of him!
He is by no means perfect, though. He’s got a chip on his shoulder about class differences and definitely holds it over Tress’ head more than once. And he’s stubborn enough that he doesn’t want to back down when he knows full well he should change his mind or apologize.
The interesting thing about this book is that while there is obviously a full society at work here, we don’t have much in the way of world-building to read through – and I really didn’t miss it at all. Instead of telling us about the world Rath lives in, we get it all through Rath’s actual story, which makes everything feel like a more natural progression. It’s also a big part of what keeps the word count so low – the author really doesn’t have to give us more to give us a full story.
Overall, I really enjoyed Tournament of Losers and the world the author has built. I definitely will be reading it again! And if you are a fan of M/M fantasy romance, you should definitely give Megan Derr a try.