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 compromises and all.
But then Cecilia gets involved with the a cultish-sounding cabaret troupe—one that appears only at night, on a mysterious red boat that travels New York’s waterways—and soon 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."
Here in Avalon was not at all what I expected, but it's still a beautiful story that I found myself strangely captivated by. I thought this was going to have a lot of magical realism elements and that there was going to be some underground magical world in New York City that we would uncover à la Neverwhere or something and that is very much not the case, but there is still a lot of different forms of magic in this book.
What I liked: I really enjoyed this book and everything it tried to do. I loved this idea of a group of people that want so badly for people to be able to experience something magical and unique and once in a lifetime (well, for most, at least) that they go to immense lengths to create something almost otherworldly and ethereal and magical just for them and those that are struggling. I love the mystique surrounding this red boat and cabaret and how we slowly learn more about it with Rose. Rose and Cecilia also acted as such great foils to one another and I liked getting to know both of them throughout the story. It was fascinating to watch both of them react to different aspects of life in such different ways, as well as how the author kept us on a very specific journey with Rose that slowly and occasionally intersected with Cecilia's in some really interesting ways. Tara Isabella Burton also has really lovely prose and does a great job of explaining certain emotions and experiences in very relatable ways.
What I didn't like: This definitely dragged a bit in the last third of the book. I think a lot of the slow character development and passage of time was critical in some areas, but at other times I felt the story dragged on just a bit too long without. much really happening or progressing. While I think it reflected the tone fo the story effectively, it slowed down the reading experience a bit too much and probably could have been pared down a little bit. I also have a few frustrations with some of the cabaret members and things that occurred, but I don't want to spoil too much relating to that part of the story, so I'll just say that a little bit of the magic was taken away for me in ways that took me out of the story a bit.
Overall, I've given Here in Avalon four stars.