Twelve-year-old Sam can’t cry, no matter how hard he tries. But the wizard Ero demands tears from everyone in his kingdom, using them to control people like puppets on strings. If Sam’s eyes are dry on his day of collecting, the wizard will punish Sam’s mother and his only friend, Tria, to force his tax of tears.

Cutting onions. Nearly drowning. Shoving his hand into a fire. Nothing ever works. Even when collecting day arrives and Ero tortures Tria, Sam can’t find his tears. So Ero keeps Sam prisoner, using Sam’s mother and Tria as a constant threat. Since crying isn’t possible, Sam can only protect the others one way: making sure Ero can’t control them again.

But finding and destroying the tears is easier said than done. Puppets roam the castle at all hours, acting as Ero’s eyes and ears. And Sam’s sure the tears are in the east tower—the one place in the castle he’s forbidden to go. But what he finds in the tower convinces Sam that destroying Ero’s stash isn’t enough to keep his loved ones safe. He’ll have to destroy Ero.

Defeating the wizard will free an entire kingdom. Failing gets the only two people he loves killed. Either way, crying won’t solve anything.