Publisher: Blue Feather Books
Erica Lawson paints a rather frightening picture in Soulwalker of a hundred years from now. An authoritarian government is trying to increase its power and is using a group called the Black Shadow Corps to accomplish that. Albinos have evolved to the point where they can separate their souls or "shadows" from their bodies and send them on covert missions ordered by the government. It makes them very efficient and totally undetectable killers. Tarris Waite leads this band but she isn't a pure albino, so the others are suspicious of her. Tarris doesn't understand why her differences matter so much to the government and she has questions that are beginning to bother her, from the accident that left her a paraplegic to the nature of the missions her people are being asked to complete. She would like to "walk" away from this life, quite literally, and that brings her into contact with Asher Hyrea, a medical researcher who is working on regenerating nerves. What seems like a harmless attempt by Tarris to regain her ability to walk results in the two of them running from the government, hiding in an underground world, and becoming involved in events that could either save or destroy their whole society.
In some ways Soulwalker is as much a mystery as it is science fiction, one that has hints, but not enough answers as to how this world developed. The reader can probably imagine how a totalitarian regime would take over, but what caused the unusual abilities of the albinos? More information about that would have been interesting. The major weakness in the story though is in the relationship between Tarris and Asher. Lawson goes to some effort to paint a picture of how distrustful both characters are of other people, almost to the point of paranoia, but they suddenly trust each other, against all reason, in a matter of hours. It could be argued that the situation forced them into that trust, but having it take place over a longer period would probably have made it more realistic.
In all though, Lawson has crafted an enjoyable story. The concept is unusual, the pacing is brisk and there are twists to the plot elements. There is a classic story of "the other," but in this case the outsider is the one to be feared and not the one who is persecuted. Tarris is an interesting character as a classic anti-hero who becomes a reluctant crusader. The Black Shadow Corps is chilling in what it represents, but it hints at the type of organizations that a government will develop to do its dirty work. One of the most disturbing aspects of the book is how real the situations feel, yet that speaks to Lawson's ability.
As with most futuristic stories, there is a moral in Soulwalker. It doesn't overwhelm the book, but it is a cautionary tale. It's one that is easy to read and might beg a sequel to see what happens to the type of power that Tarris represents. It's certainly worth giving this book a chance to capture your attention.