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Giddyup, Shmoopsters, and come aboard the Westmark Express.
Our hero is Theo, a printer's apprentice in a tiny town in the fictional kingdom of Westmark. He gets his first job independent of his master, Anton, but then the feds—a.k.a. the local police—bust in and try to arrest him for printing harmful info, all at the behest of the king's chief minister, Cabbarus. Theo knocks out one bad dude and runs away, but then he finds out he's a wanted man and that Anton is dead, so he goes on the run.
As he books it, Theo runs into a pair of mischief-makers, Count Las Bombas and his sidekick, the dwarf Musket. Las Bombas tricks his way out of trouble pretty easily, and Theo's not super-comfy when he associates himself with fraudulent figures—but they're the only people he's got, so he keeps on trucking.
We flash to the capital, where we discover that Chief Minister Cabbarus is a slimy little man who wants nothing more than to take all power from King Augustine. The monarch has been incapacitated since his daughter's death, and Cabby does his best, despite the efforts of the king's doc and wife, to keep Auggie sick.
Augustine wants to find someone who can raise the dead so he can chat with his deceased daughter, but Cabbarus insists he forget his kid and adopt him as his heir instead. Later, Cabbarus banishes Dr. Torrens, one of the only good influences at court, to maintain his power over the king. Ugh. Total sleaze bag, right?
After more shenanigans, Las Bombas, Musket, and Theo arrive at a town, where they get into it with an urchin girl who proves herself to be really talented at making up voices. Her name is Mickle, and Las Bombas drafts her into their company.
They put on a skit where Mickle pretends to talk to the dead, and she and Theo get really close. But eventually Theo gets really ticked off at the immorality of the way Las Bombas and his cohorts are tricking everyone, so he decides he's had enough—unable to bring Mickle with him because he's afraid he'll put her in danger, he runs off without telling anyone.
Eventually he arrives in a new city, where he befriends a group of rebels called Florian's Children, led by the clever and elusive Florian. Theo doesn't feel like a real member of the group yet, but he hangs out with his new friends for a bit and works on rebuilding a printing press. Meanwhile, Dr. Torrens washes up in a swamp, where he's rescued by a political cartoonist.
Finally Theo's gets a really big job when his friends, Las Bombas, Mickle, and Musket are captured in a nearby town. Florian's Children help him rescue them, and simultaneously raid the town's weapons stash for themselves. Later, they meet up with Dr. Torrens and Theo debates his almost-murder of a guy.
Cabbarus cultivates his intelligence system and gets a guy to arrest Mickle, LB, and co. after they depart Florian's company. The group heads to the capital, where Mickle starts freaking out when she meets Cabbarus and sees a particular well in the ground.
Cabby wants the group to put on their necromancy skit and convince the king to abdicate in favor of Cabbarus, but during the performance, Mickle seems possessed and starts recounting a memory where someone almost killed her. Queen Caroline recognizes her—it's her daughter, the presumed dead Princess Augusta. Cabbarus tried to kill the girl years ago, but she's come back. Oh snap.
Cabbarus is banished and Mickle is properly reinstated in her position. Theo decides to go on a tour of Westmark to see what the people want, but ultimately he'll come back to his girl.