There's a part of me that felt some serious disappointment with Neil Gaiman's most recent novel, because it's just so very Gaimanny. You name the trope, it's in here. Young protagonist, very old magic, trinity of crone / mother / youngster, names having power, tempting from magic circles, mysterious creatures / forces from other realities crossing into ours... this is a story that he's told before, quite honestly.
I'm not sure that he's ever told it so well, however. It's a story remembered by a man in his late forties, who had forgotten most of the events, decades ago, that began with a boarder stealing the family car and killing himself, and ended with a childhood friend moving across the ocean to Australia. But when he revisits the rickety old farm where the girl lived, he remembers a much more vivid story, of some force from another world influencing ours, of a visit to that land in the company of his new friend to try and persuade the force to leave, and of what happened when the creature followed them back to our world.
It is whimsical and interesting, and just long enough to not overstay its welcome, but it mostly follows a very predictable path. Even the fate of his friend - "Australia," indeed - is unsurprising. Gaiman's prose is so darn fine that it mostly didn't matter that this was a story he's told in comics and novels before. The ending, however, does contain a few unexpected revelations and quite heartbreaking gentle little twists. I admire Gaiman's power, but I'm ready for him to blaze a few new trails. Recommended with reservations.