Grey Haward has always detested the Chemists, the magicians-come-scientists who rule her small western town. But she has always followed the rules, taking the potion the Chemists ration out that helps the townâ€™s people survive. A potion that Grey suspects sheâ€”like her grandfather and fatherâ€”may not actually need.
By working at her grandfatherâ€™s repair shop, sorting the small gears and dusting the curio cabinet inside, Grey has tried to stay unnoticedâ€”or as unnoticed as a tall, strong girl can in a town of diminutive, underdeveloped citizens. Then her best friend, Whit, is caught by the Chemistsâ€™ enforcers after trying to protect Grey one night, and after seeing the extent of his punishment, suddenly taking risks seems the only decision she can make.
But with the risk comes the reality that the Chemists know her familyâ€™s secret, and the Chemists soon decide to use her for their own purposes. Panicked, Grey retreats to the only safe place she knowsâ€”her grandfatherâ€™s shop. There, however, a larger secret confronts her when her touch unlocks the old curio cabinet in the corner and reveals a world where porcelain and clockwork people are real. There, she could find the key that may save Whitâ€™s life and also end the Chemistsâ€™ dark rule forever.