Review: As The Last Petal Lingers, or, Always Read The First Page
So a little while ago I was stocking up on Kindle titles, because you know, having 300 hard copy books I haven’t read just wasn’t enough for me. I bought a lot of speculative fiction novellas by independent authors, thinking if I found something good then I’d share it with you guys and the rest of the world.
Oh my. The things I found. The things I’ve seen in that electronic pile of books.
Some weren’t very good at all.
In fact, some were so bad, they were…
As The Last Petal Lingers by I. C. Basye
Every year the people of Findle sends four young men, the Dulas, to the mountain above the city. It is the sacred duty of these bold youths to replant the Lavendula Lily, a flower whose potent stench protects the city from the ghoul-like Nukpana who linger in the darkness beyond Findle’s mountainous borders.
Our hero is Damien, leader of the current Dulas. Like all Dulas, Damien and his three brothers were raised in isolation, knowing only their martial arts sensei and an old teacher. Their lives revolve around their mission to replace the Lavendula Lily, drilled into them from the moment they were snatched from their homes as infants, and driving them as their one holy duty. The four boys are prepared to risk life and limb for Findle, going beyond the city’s protection, facing the darkness of the forest and the terrors of the night-stalking Nukpana to bring hope to the people and glory for themselves in the knowledge of a duty done.
Doesn’t that sound like a cool story? I’d read it. And I did read it, so I can tell you with 100% certainty that As The Last Petal Lingers is utter bullshit.
This is not a story about Damien of the Dulas. This is a story about an author who does not care. At all. I. C. Basye does not care about being a writer, doesn’t care about his readers, doesn’t care about consistency, or good story telling, or what can conscionably be sold as readable material. He just doesn’t care.
There is nothing good about this story. It reads like a checklist of clichés for every half-assed fantasy adventure ever written. Bland ghoul-like bad guys? Check. Obviously evil authority figure? Check. Young girl in cowled robe with vital plot information? Check. No attempt made at world detail? Check.
But worse than the clichés, which are truly awful, is the internal world consistency. It has none. The author cares so little about his own story that the hugest inconsistencies are allowed to fly. Take the Dulas. The Dulas are taken from their homes as infants. Four boys every year. They are then raised in isolation. At age eighteen, the boys are sent to the mountain to replant the Lavendula Lily. However, the author himself gives the birth years of the four boys in Damien’s group. They are Damien 5432; Sedrick 5433; Millet 5434, and Harris 5435.
So then, the boys are all a year apart, with Damien the oldest by three years. Doesn’t matter to Basye; he sends them all out when Damien turns 18.
It also apparently doesn’t matter that there are other groups of Dulas. One group every year. One group which is supposed to be made up of 18 year old boys. So why aren’t there four 18 year olds in Damien’s group? It also means there are 72 boys being raised at any given time, 18 groups of four being raised in isolation from all others. This becomes ridiculous when you realise every group of boys is raised by the same sensei and teacher as Damien’s group. The sensei lives with Damien – who the hell raises the other 68 kids? Not to mention there is no reason whatsoever they were raised in isolation.
It doesn’t help that Damien’s group is made up of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, minus the personality. Damien has a bow staff, one guy has a sword, another a bow – wait! That’s not a Ninja Turtle weapon! The “tough” decision Damien has to make, i.e. whether or not to plant the Lily, is made meaningless because the answer is given to him. He has no character development, because he has no character.
You might think I’m nitpicking. So the dates are wrong. Easy mistake, right? Sure. It’s central to the plot, but there are bigger fish to fry.
So this Lavendula Lily. Sometimes spelled Lilly. The first chapter describes Findle as being in a circular valley, surrounded by mountains. The Nukpana are on the far “dark” side of the mountains. Farmers live on the outskirts, because farmers are the scum of this totally isolated last bastion of humanity, not like you’re relying on those farmers to survive, nope, farmers are scum. Hence the farmers are closest to the tops of the mountains and so closer to the Nukpana.
One night Governor Rathborne floats (he doesn’t walk, it’s never explained) out to a farm that hasn’t paid its petal tax. The petal tax is basically a racket to keep your farm inside the protection of the Lavendula Lily. Don’t pay the tax and Rathborne can have his evil goons remove the protection of the Lavendula and leave your farm exposed to Nukpana attack.
At this point, early on, I was thinking of a medieval city bordered by farms, the surrounding mountain ridges planted with lilies. I figured that if a farmer didn’t pay the racket, Rathborne’s goons would go dig up the lilies nearest the farm, exposing it to danger but leaving the rest of the valley safe.
There’s only ONE Lavendula Lily, on the mountain above Findle. The mountain is covered in trees so dense as to be impenetrable by light, and so common sense would suggest no one farms there. Meaning that since the city is walled, and there are apparently only two exits, that the farms are opposite to the mountain, putting them the further distance from the lily.
But even that is beside the point. The lily’s only power is its scent. How do you keep a scent from reaching one farm in dozens? Wouldn’t it just be everywhere? And even trace amounts of this scent is enough to kill the Nukpana – apparently the scent of it on someone’s breath will kill them – so…? Dumbest protection racket ever? Only it works perfectly in the book, and a farm that fails to pay its tax is destroyed by the Nukpana.
And, hell. How can I take this seriously? One might think the forest is between the city gate and the mountaintop, since the forest is on the mountain slope and the Dulas enter it as soon as they leave the city. Yet the forest is full of Nukpana. That places the Nukpana between the city and the Lavendula Lily. See the problem?
Speaking of the forest, the woods up to the mountain have a path … a path made of wood. I honestly do not think I. C. Basye has ever set foot on a mountain or a forest in his life. He does say that Damien doesn’t see a single rock on the mountain before he reaches the top. What. It’s a mountain. It’s made of rock.
In fact, it is perhaps made of dirt. The path to the top is described both as “a gentle climb to the top” and so treacherous that only highly trained young men in the peak of physical fitness are capable of climbing it.
I’ve griped a lot about this book. I could gripe a lot more. Despite being short, it’s so painful to read I barely got through it. Everything is so clichéd, and I. C. Basye writes like he’s only heard about Earth in radio transmissions. He’s a writer of the vainest degree, detailing his protagonist’s appearance at length but ignoring any need for personality. The story is dumb, it has no reason to exist, it should have never been written, and I. C. Basye should have his thumbs broken in the instance he ever tries to write another one.
And in case you’re thinking as I did, that Basye is just some poor schmuck of a kid who wrote this crapsack and sold it on Amazon for a couple of bucks and a hoot, no. I. C. Basye is a grade one teacher. A teacher! He’s an educated man! If you care to look him up, he has a blog on WordPress, and truly he does seem like a decent guy. But he is a bad, bad writer.
That’s all I have to say about As The Last Petal Lingers. Don’t do your wallet the injustice of paying money for it. I’m giving it 1 star and seven years’ math homework.
One part of this book I absolutely loved: the descriptions of Damien’s clothing. Picture this:
Damien wore a bowler hat and put his long brown hair in a ponytail. His tan trousers went up to his belly button and down to his knees, followed by long white socks. He tightened a brown necktie and strapped on suspenders to match. As far as Damien could tell, he looked as common as most young men his age.
Yeah, Damien looks like this: