Soulwalker by Erica Lawson is a dystopian science fiction novel set one hundred years in the future, in a near-totalitarian state. There is a nice romantic subplot that makes this story accessible for those of us who are not naturally sci-fi inclined.
Tarris Waite is a loner, an outcast, and an elite killer. She is the leader of the Black Shadow Corps. They are rare albinos. Albinos are born with the ability to project their inner shadows out into the world to kill at the Union’s will. They are merely tools of an oppressive regime. Marked by her unusual pale blue eyes, she is seen as a half-breed. For that reason she is despised by the men in the corps. The facts that she is the most powerful member of the Black Shadow Corps, a paraplegic, and a woman only add to their ire.
Asher Hyrea is a mediprac researching nerve regeneration. Tarris believes that she might be the one to help her realize her dream of walking again, but Tarris is under surveillance and has to act cautiously. Asher realizes the only way that she can help Tarris without raising suspicion is to move in with her, posing as her lover.
When Tarris realizes that her loyalty is in question she decides to leave the Black Shadow Corps and lead a “normal” life. However, she knows that nobody leaves the organization alive so she and Asher go underground. After going underground, the two women discover the government is conducting horrifying experiments on its citizens. Rogue elements of the Union, using old blood samples from Tarris, want to turn typical humans into albinos to serve in the Black Shadow Corps.
Will Tarris be able to save herself and stop the government’s heinous plan?
Tarris is a very complex character. She is neither civilian nor pure albino. Along with every albino, she was raised by the state with the singular purpose of serving it as a weapon. She’s never known love or family and her only relationship has been with her shadow, Rya, who lives inside her. Rya is Tarris’s twin who did not survive childbirth, yet exists as her aura. Tarris lives a very solitary life, where personal relationships and vulnerability of any kind could mean her demise. She has limited social skills so when Asher insinuates herself into her life, she is at a complete loss. I thought Tarris’s belief that she doesn’t fit in anywhere was very poignant and watching her slowly allow herself to become a part of a greater good warmed my heart.
Asher is a firecracker! She is much more than a mild mannered medical researcher. She challenges Tarris’s boundaries and stands up to the lethal trooper in a way that no sane person would ever consider. Tarris is able to alter her looks so that she can hide the fact that she is a trooper in the Black Shadow Corps. At first, Asher is surprised when Tarris reveals who and what she really is. In the world of this novel, most people run in terror from these lethal albinos. Asher is fearless. She takes a moment to process what Tarris is and then goes all in, joining Tarris on her mission. Asher pushes Tarris through her moments of melancholy and over the course of the book proves that she is just as courageous as her trooper.
The Writing Style
The book is written in the third person focusing mainly on Tarris. This worked for me because a major part of the book is about Tarris’s internal journey and her relationship with her shadow, Rya. Lawson uses a very lyrical style of dialogue when Tarris is communicating with Rya. It is almost stream of consciousness. The dialogue feels like Tarris is having an existential discussion with herself and evolving as a result. This is a nice contrast to the hopeless images of a world where automation has almost removed the need for human interaction.
Lawson created a domain stripped of color, where it rains continuously and the nights are dark and dangerous. Her description of this world left me feeling uneasy. I appreciate it when an author creates an environment that gives me such a visceral reaction. She goes to great lengths to create this callous and uncaring place and she matches it with characters that are equally hardhearted and unforgiving. Their harsh dialogue matches their harsh environment.
I am still finding my feet in the world of science fiction literature. It was very easy for me to immerse myself into the world of this book because I didn’t have to learn the history of a different universe or keep track of the politics on numerous planets. It’s not that I’m a simpleton; I’ve just got some growing to do. This story took me out of the present day and dropped me into a dystopian future that had an otherworldly feel but wasn’t so complicated that I couldn’t get lost in the story or the characters. The sights and sounds of this world evoked images from the Blade Runner movies and left me wondering how far away we are from this reality.
Nothing about this book was a con for me.
If you aren’t a savvy reader of science fiction then this might be a great jumping off place for you. The characters had me invested in the story from the beginning and the plot was intriguing. There was a palpable feeling of urgency that kept me turning the pages. I love a good villain and Lawson provides one who made me want to throw my Kindle at the wall. What was most satisfying for me was that even in a future as bleak as the one in this book, the restorative power of love still has its place.
Excerpt from Soulwalker by Erica Lawson
This particular operation involved an Administrator. What had the man done? A hit on an Administrator was unheard of. He was one of the Council, one of those who had control over her unit. His crime against the Union must have been great indeed.
Tarris had been given the assignment because of her status and power. She knew where her strength lay, and she used it without prejudice. As Rya moved through the building that housed the Administrator, Tarris lay quietly and idly noted the abundance of wealth that was on display. So the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Nothing had changed in the last few millennia.
Eerie white shapes filled her ghostly vision as Rya moved silently through the rooms to search for her targets. The first door didn’t move when the shadowed form slid in between the cracks and returned to substance on the other side. Stealthily, she moved forward, the death of the humans inside already complete in Tarris’s mind. Just as Rya was about to strike, Tarris stopped her. Confused, Rya sought out her twin. Why? The word was presented as a random thought, with no substance to the word, but Tarris understood it just the same.
No! Tarris screamed in her head.
Why? Rya repeated.
Look. She is but a child…a baby. Her targets before were men and an occasional woman, adults who had knowingly broken the law. But a baby was innocent, and Tarris just couldn’t take that innocent life.
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781927328764
- Publisher: Affinity Press
Erica Lawson Online
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