Title: Stone Voice Rising
Author: C. Lee Tocci
Lilibit has always heard the stones talking. But an act of childish stubbornness plays right into her enemy’s hands, and those who see her power as a future threat capture her. Now, five years later, she’s a shadow of the girl she used to be, washed out to a last-chance foster home. The enemy did not intend to lose her. He wants her back. Can she reach the legendary Kiva before he finds her again?
Much of this book borrows from the strength of thrillers: fast, high-stakes action, being pursued by a powerful and ruthless enemy, the sense that the world is more or less against you. But where thrillers generally fall into the trap of style over substance, this book pushes out beyond and includes some nice elements of fantasy, myth, and coming-of-age.
The beginning is a little off-putting because it starts with a six-year-old Lilibit, which gives some great background on her character but did leave me wondering if the entire book would be following such a young (and rather obnoxious) character. Thankfully, the time skip happens pretty fast, and once we hit the future most of the story shifts to Todd, the oldest boy at the foster home and the one who stands to lose his place there thanks to Lilibit showing up.
I liked Todd a lot. He’s not really cut out to be a leader in his own mind, but as the oldest he does feel responsible for the others, even the anti-authority Jeff. I liked how his character arc increasingly trends towards the mythic, as though he’s taking up the mantle of a prophet-warrior and moving back to an ancient time of vast powers and supernatural evils. His ability to talk to ravens and crows gets a lot of attention early on, but later, although he follows them, he doesn’t hear them speak any more. That was one thing I wish he had regained. He’s also the only one of the kids smart enough to figure out what Lilibit’s gifts of stones really means, and hesitant about taking his own stone as a consequence.
Keotak-se, the ten-centuries-old Stone Warrior, is another interesting character. Lilibit’s stubbornness and unpredictability foil his greater strength and wisdom in his attempts to protect her, and later, find her. It’s most interesting to compare him to Todd, though, as Kotek-se appears to be the kind of person Todd is becoming. Even though Lilibit gifts stones to more than just Todd, they all seem more enamored with the powers than the bigger-picture stuff Todd is wondering about.
The biggest flaw feels like the abundance of major characters. Todd, Jeff, Keotak-se, and Lilibit get a lot of development, but many of the younger kids blurred together for me. Which is a shame, because I really liked Devon but kept getting him mixed up with the kid who got the Horse stone. And on a more minor note, although the articles at the end were a nice touch to provide some closure, I find it extremely unbelievable “He was just following orders” got accepted as an excuse. It doesn’t usually work that way, although since the point was that Syxx can sway people to unreasonable actions, it’s more of a minor thing.
This wraps up fairly well, but several things do point towards wanting a sequel (Molly, Chief, the whole bit with the neophytes gathering). Given how long ago this book came out I’m not too hopeful, although the author page does indicate she’s working on it. But if this is all we get, it’s still a very good read, so I rate this book Recommended.