Step aboard and discovery the mystery!
Here in Avalon Book Cover Here in Avalon
Tara Isabella Burton
Literary Fiction
Simon & Schuster
January 2, 2024

An “enchanting” (Caroline Kepnes, author of You) New York City fairy tale about two sisters that fall under the spell of an underworld cabaret troupe that might be a dangerous cult—but one that makes the materialist world left in its wake feel like a sinister cult itself. Rose has come a long way. Raised—and often neglected—by a wayward mother in New York City’s chaotic bohemia, Rose has finally built the life she’s always wanted: a good job at a self-help startup, a clean apartment, an engagement to a stable if self-satisfied tech CEO who shares her faith in human potential, hard work, and the sacrifice of childish dreams. Rose’s sister Cecilia, on the other hand, never grew up. Irresponsible and impetuous, prone to jetting off to a European monastery one month and a falcon rescue the next, Cecilia has spent her life in pursuit of fairy-tale narratives of transcendence and true love—grand ideas Rose knows never work out in the real world. When Cecilia declares she’s come home to New York for good, following the ending of a whirlwind marriage, Rose hopes Cecilia might finally be ready to face adulthood: compromises and all. But then Cecilia gets involved with the Avalon: a cultish-sounding cabaret troupe—one that appears only at night, on a mysterious red boat that travels New York’s waterways—and soon vanishes: one of a growing number of suspicious disappearances among the city’s lost and loneliest souls. The only way Rose can find Cecilia is by tracking down the Avalon herself. But as Rose gets closer to solving the mystery of what happened to her sister, the Avalon works its magic on her, too. And the deeper she goes into the Avalon’s underworld, she more she begins to question everything she knows about her own life, and whether she’s willing to leave the real world behind.

Tara Isabella Burton has described her most recent novel, Here in Avalon, as a “love letter to cults.” I think it could also be described as a love letter to art and the whimsy in loving art. We’re allowed to explore not only the lure of an elusive, magical group but also what it’d be to let beauty be the thing that sustains you.

“Beauty was just something —like cognac, like heartbreak—a person consumed.”

Here in Avalon follows two sisters – Rose and Cecilia – who seem to be as different as two people can be. For example:


“A college boyfriend had once told her, not entirely unkindly, that she reacted to spreadsheets the way ordinary girls reacted to sex.”


“Cecilia was so extravagantly, so idiotically openhearted that you couldn’t leave her alone for a minute or two without her plunging them both into some charitable disaster.”

When the wilder Cecilia disappears into a mysterious group, Rose isn’t sure what to think. The Avalon calls itself a cabaret, but is this Cecilia’s usual flakiness or something more nefarious? Rose is left to unravel the cryptic clues the group leaves behind in the hopes of seeing her sister again. But the more she gets sucked into this extravagant new world, though, the harder it is to maintain her real life. 

Burton weaves this story so beautifully it’ll make you ache. The reader is brought through the same hesitant wonder along with Rose as this new world is slowly revealed to us. The world of the Avalon is presented in such vivid color compared to the muted tones of the real world. An otherworldly affect is achieved in a way that feels so subtle and effortless that you can’t help but feel that same pull. I don’t know when I started routing for both sisters to be in a cult, but that is how efficient Burton is at spoon-feeding you this alluring narrative. Never did I anticipate that when the other shoe dropped I’d have to question when I’d become team cult.

Here in Avalon gives you the opportunity to sink into this enchanting space and contemplate the value of art and love and all the beautiful things in the world. Reading this novel feels not dissimilar to Rose’s experience: unsuspecting and ethereal. I loved it.

This book was provided in exchance for an honest review graphic