"Stone Voice Rising," by C. Lee Tocci shares much with a recent crop of fantasy novels for middle readers to young adults.  It is set in what feels like the present time, but with protagonists who are engaged in an important, but somewhat hidden or secret battle to save the world.  I found myself thinking of both the Harry Potter series and the Gregor the Overlander series while reading this book.  And like the initial books in those series, this book leaves much open at the end to be resolved in future installments.

The novel opens with the intertwining stories of Lilibit, a little girl with a special ability to talk to and understand rocks and stones, and Todd, a boy who has similar capabilities with birds. Both are presumed orphans (hmmm, like Harry Potter and most other protagonists in children's literature who are going to have adventures...) and both are encouraged to ignore or hide their abilities.

Lilibit is  cared for by her "aunties" and eventually by a special guardian whom she calls "Tree."  As Tree, more formally called Keotak-se, attempts to take Lilibit for protection to Kiva, they are attacked by agents of some sort of mega-corporation and both disappear temporarily from the scene.

Todd has the misfortune of ending up in an intensely unpleasant foster home, but with other children with whom he generally feels a strong bond.  This group and their interactions evoke the children from the Narnia chronicles--one protective, one a bit sneaky and problematic, one in need of protection, etc.  When they are threatened, though, they are able to pull together to act as a team.

Not surprisingly, the two threads of the story reconnect when Lilibit shows up at the foster home, a mere shell of her former self.  She begins regain her memory after a series of disasters, and is the catalyst for the journey that these children pursue on their way to escape their bleak and hopeless present for the promise of safety and security at Kiva.

Tocci does a good job of pulling the reader into her story by creating characters that are believable and well-rounded. Each character has faults, and each has redeeming value.  This story follows a basic quest format, and it sets up the books that are sure to follow. The villains, while perhaps a bit more dark and soulless than I would prefer, do fit this age group's preference for clearly delineated categories of Evil and Good.   I have included it here as a YA book in part because parts of the novel could be pretty scary to readers that are too young.

I especially enjoyed the setting in the desert Southwest of the United States, with the references to aspects of Native American mythology and spirituality.  In all, this book is one I will certainly recommend to those voracious fantasy readers at my school as another thoughtful, well-written adventure into imagination.