Voyage to the Rock, by Fr. Mathew Penney (Lumination Press 2014), is a fast paced historical novel which combines classic teen sleuthing with Vikings, an ancient Irish saint, Celtic crosses, Orthodoxy, and a villainous antique dealer- all in the ruggedly beautiful setting of Newfoundland, Canada.
Martin’s family is moving from Boston to his father’s hometown on Newfoundland and Martin is angry about it. He knows his father’s dream of starting an Orthodox mission back home is a great thing to do, but Martin is just not into leaving his Boston life until he chances upon an ancient cross. As Martin starts to unravel the historical mystery and mystical significance of this beautiful cross he becomes involved in adventure, secrecy, an ancient saint, and a nasty contemporary villain.
My 14 year old son, who likes Hardy Boys books, reluctantly started reading Voyage to the Rock when I asked him to. After the first few chapters he told me in a surprised tone- this book is really good! Father Penney’s engaging and authentic writing pull the reader into the story. Along with Martin’s story, there is a parallel story about Saint Brendan which reads a bit like the Voyage of the Dawntreader as Saint Brendan travels on a ship to mysterious otherworldly islands with a group of brave monks looking for Paradise.
Fr. Penney wove Orthodoxy into his novel in such a natural way that you never feel like he wrote an Orthodox teen novel- he simply wrote a fun lively book which due to his own life has Orthodox characters much like Harry Potter is English. The Orthodox elements move the plot along in a very natural yet mystical way without being preachy.
This a great summer read for teens and adults who like teen books. The chapters are short and dramatic tension keeps the reader turning the pages. Capitalizing on its engaging plot, I’ll use Voyage to the Rock to kick start our study of American History in our homeschool program this year so the boys will begin with something they’re interested in-Vikings!
Voyage to the Rock has a great website: http://voyagetotherock.webs.com/ which details more of the history of the first Vikings who came to America, the story of Saint Brendan, and the book of Kells. It’s a beautiful resource to expand the book for curious readers.