The Avalon Writer by Tara Isabella Burton

With her debut novel Social Creature and the follow up Here in Avalon, author Tara Isabella Burton has conjured up a dark decadence that echoes through the streets of New York City. Her latest effort, though, takes a broader look at the same city through the lens of glittering magic.

Bran, a modern day Californian Cinderella, is on a mission to find Avalon. In a reversal of the usual plot twists, she does not seek refuge in a castle with a king but instead is drawn to an inexplicable magical cabaret on a boat. As the world of enchantment around her becomes more pronounced, she must confront her own entanglements with a family that has been a major source of heartache and frustration.

Zink is an acclaimed writer who specializes in high-concept premise novels. Her books tend to be wondrously wild and witty, with plot lines that veer off into absurd directions. For example, in her earlier work The Wallcreeper, a sex-fueled flirtation with ecofascism took place across Europe and Nicotine followed the middle-class daughter of a shamanic leader who joins a polyamorous cigarette cult. In Avalon, however, she pulls back on the gleeful flexing of her creative imagination and allows a more measured tenderness to shine through.

Avalon The Avalon Writer is a well-written, character-driven novel that explores a wide range of themes including class, art and aesthetics as well as growing up. Zink’s characters are well observed and archly funny, even if they seem a bit too pedantic at times. Nevertheless, the plot is fascinating and intriguing, and the narrative has a propulsive energy that makes it worth a reader’s time.

The novel has a strong sense of atmosphere, especially the scenes at the beach and in the woods, and it is an utterly engaging and enjoyable read. Its only flaw is that the plot does not really develop until close to the end, leaving some readers feeling a bit frustrated at the way it ends. But if you’re looking for an escapist fantasy with a little edge, Avalon is a solid choice.