Review: Valentine Bell: The Golden Year by Rowan Maness

Valentine Bell (Medium)

In this enthralling science-fiction debut, a young girl learns that getting the best revenge takes more than secret powers—it takes luck.

Valentine Bell spends her days aboard the luxury cruise ship “The Heart of Io,” traveling back and forth between earth and beautiful, mysterious Vala, a planet where the jungle holds a universe-altering secret. Born with a scar that bestows luck upon anyone who touches it, Valentine remains unaware of her secret power. All she knows is that she seeks greater adventures that what life has provided for her.

She finds it in the form of Orion Sides. Orion recruits Valentine into his father’s gang of thugs and thieves who run the ship’s underworld. Aided by her de-facto dad, Tycho, and her best friend, Luke, Valentine realizes that Orion’s been using her powers to pull off a heist, and when a set of priceless jewels goes missing from the cabin of a powerful Ambassador, Valentine is sure she knows who’s taken them. Out for revenge, Valentine embarks upon a dangerous journey that takes her into the Valan jungle, spurred on by strange connections, greater adventures, and unraveling her own tangled history.

Rowan Maness’s stunning first novel invites readers into a dizzying world unlike any they’ve ever seen, and introduces a character whose journey will enchant anyone who has ever questioned their place in this world or any other.

PUBLISHER: Madison Square Books

PAGES: 210


The publisher gave me a copy of this book to read and review (from NetGalley). This has, in no way, altered my opinion of the book and what is written below is a 100% honest review.

Valentine Bell: The Golden Year centers around a newly-turned thirteen-year-old who lives aboard the largest luxury space ship, The Heart of Io. Valentine Bell is ready to step over the threshold and become a woman, show others what she is capable of, and perhaps gain the attention of the ship’s resident attractive bad boy, Orion Sides. Everything won’t go according to plan, however, because Valentine was born with a unique scar. Unbeknownst to her, this scar has the power to give luck to whomever touches it. Valentine doesn’t have to worry about her “golden year” being anything other than golden. Betrayal, adventure, and a slight bit of romance will end up setting her thirteenth year apart.


PG: Apparently, readers are all up in arms about a thirteen-year-old drinking and doing drugs in this novel. Let me speak to that for a moment, please. First of all, this is a sci-fi novel. Some parts are bound to be far-fetched. If you want your novels to be realistic, go check out the 000-099 section at your local library. Secondly, the drugs and drinking are in no way a main focus of the novel. Valentine works in a casino for the first quarter of the novel; in case you’ve never heard of a casino, there are drinks there for people to consume. Plus, who knows what the drinking age is in this fictional world that Maness has created? And, honestly, who cares? Finally, I’d give this a PG rating because there is kissing (one or two makeout sessions in a closet?), Valentine Bell doesn’t really listen to Tycho, the only authoritative figure in her life, and because of the slight drug/drinking. But, I don’t think it should be PG-13. The fact that her life was so much “richer” (if that’s even the word to use) than mine at that thirteen did draw me out of the story a bit because I didn’t feel like I could relate to her.


Valentine Bell was a fun character to read. I don’t remember my thirteenth year being nearly as exciting and adventurous as hers was; I may or may not be slightly jealous of a fictional character. In fact, if I remember correctly, my thirteenth birthday was spent in a hospital getting a blood draw. As you can already tell, I live a fascinating and fun-filled existence just like the main protagonist in this novel. Tycho, (her “dad”) and Luke Seal (her best friend)  were a treat to read about, too.  I found the premise intriguing and, let’s be frank, who doesn’t love spaceships?


I think the main problem I had with this book was it’s shallowness. And I don’t mean that word in the moral sense. I feel like Maness just scraped the surface of this fictional world and of Valentine Bell. I thought that the writing was very surface-level and I wished that the novel had more deeply explained the world that Valentine lived in, her thoughts and actions, etc. I would say that this book bridges the children’s and young adult genres. In that respect, I didn’t expect it to be much deeper than it ended up being. Plus, at times I grew agitated with Valentine’s immaturity. Yes, I understand that she is just thirteen! Maybe I’m just too old (at the young, tender age of 19) because I could predict the majority of the events of this book. Much of the time, she acted certain ways because of her need to be loved and accepted… can’t we all relate to that? Also, Orion Sides, the resident hottie, I found to be a bit annoying and aggravating. Valentine kept finding herself drawn to him despite knowing that he was using her. And, after all that, they remained friends because he was pretty. That’s almost a direct quote from the book. I’m all about forgiveness, but, please, Valentine Bell, gain some dignity and learn to stay away from a vain, egotistical, manipulative man. I lost a boatload of respect for her.


This was a song that Valentine Bell listened to early in the book and I feel like it’s a good match!


I’d probably give this one a 3/5. At times, I wanted to give it a 2/5. It was an enjoyable read, but there were a lot of problems about this novel that prevented me from fully diving into the story of Valentine Bell.


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