"I was not happy as a child, although from time to time I was content. I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else."
How to describe this without a hugely number of spoilers...
A young boy meets an odd girl, her mother, and grandmother down the lane. The boy and girl have a few misadventures, and send a naughty housekeeper away. The boy grows up.
That's pretty much what I can spoil. I think.
A short novel or long novella (about 180 pages), the book is a reasonably quick first read. Some people mentioned reading it in a sitting, I took two short evenings for a re-read, after not reading the book since we purchased it when new. The book draws you along, with short, evocative chapters. That said, this is Gaiman, and there is a density of subtle detail, easy to gloss over, and worth a reread.
How old are you really?" I asked.
I thought for a bit. Then I asked, "How long have you been eleven for?"
She smiled at me.Gaiman, as often, weaves together a a world of intersecting reality and unreality - I wouldn't call the forces and players in the book 'magic' because they are appear to be much older and more subtle than such a simplistic label...
"We don't do spells," she said. She sounded a little disappointed to admit it. "We'll do recipes sometimes. But no spells or cantrips. Gran doesn't hold with none of that. She says it common."In the course of the book, the narrator and his mysterious friend interact with forces out of of time, including a manipulative, malign intelligence that manifests itself and ingratiates its way into the narrator's family.
Powerless, the narrator makes a desperate flee to the mysterious womens' home for their assistance in dispelling the being. After consultation and failed negotiation with the being, the girl calls ethereal predators to their aid in dispatching the being.
"High in the sky they were, and black, jet-black, so black it seemed as if they were specks on my eyes, not real things at all. The had wings, but were not birds. They were older than birds,and they flew in circles and in loops and whorls, dozens of them, hundreds perhaps, and each flapping unbird ever so slowly, descended."And then things go sideways....
No more spoilers, and you'll need to read to find out why an ocean is as large as it needs to be....
And - inspired by the quote above - a bunch of angry birds:
Hunger Birds/Vultures of the Void
Called by powerful witches to banish demons and to rend apart the wormholes and doors in time and space that allow the infernal into our world, these incorporeal "birds" are ravenous and never truly under the command of their summoner. Once called to complete their task, they may not be sated, and can choose to have a mind(s) of their own... Summoning these critters is dangerous, and only performed under desperate situations...
Their numbers are ambiguous, and ephemeral, as they do not exist fully within this plane - there may be appear to be twenty, or one thousand. They attack and speak as one - a hive-minded swarm of malevolent hunger.
Number summoned: 1d4 birds per summoner's level.
HD: 1 per bird
AC: 2/17, semi-incorporeal, damaged only by spells or magic weapons.
Atk: The birds attack as a swarm, with a single engulfing roll for damage - 1 hp per bird/round vs a summoned/demon/extra planar creature. If attacking a mortal creature, the birds drain one point of CON per successful attack, with death occurring at 0 CON. This CON loss can not be recovered by non-magical means.
Move: 2 (Fly 20)
Once the birds have attacked/consumed the summoner's intended target, there is a chance that they will not return quietly to their home realm. The greater their number, the hungrier (and less cooperative) they are. % chance of rebellion = 5% per number summoned > than summoner level. Negotiating with the birds is a dicey affair, as they may choose to turn on the summoner or allies to feed, or escape to ravage an area of prey - living or incorporeal - until they are sated and return to whatever plane that they infest.