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’s bodies 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. 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 forces Sam to stay and work at the castle, 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 use their tears to control them again.
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 as he investigates, Sam realizes 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.
Sam really didn’t want to shove his hand in a fire. But he was out of time.
“Hurry,” Tria said, kneeling on the other side of the fire. She glanced toward town, as if she’d be able to see anyone moving through the forest in the dark. “I don’t want another lecture from my papa.”
Sam rolled his eyes. Even a surly man like the blacksmith wouldn’t yell at her on their day of collecting.
“Go on,” Tria said. “It’ll work. It has to.”
When Sam didn’t move any closer to the flames, she added, “Have I ever given you a reason not to trust me?”
A corner of Sam’s mouth lifted. “How about when you pushed me out of that tree?”
“You wouldn’t jump. And one of us has to be brave.”
“I broke my arm!”
She smirked, flipping her blonde curls over one shoulder. “You’re welcome.”
She’d been coming up with ways for Sam to hurt himself for years. It was her teasing that usually made Sam go through with her plans.
Or the occasional shove.
Tria was the only one he could really count on. His mother tried her hardest, and Sam loved her for that, but she hadn’t been the same since Sam’s father died. There were days she didn’t even make it out of bed, and she almost never ventured beyond their garden.
Everyone else in Eller’s Grove pretended Sam didn’t even exist.
But there was always the chance their plan would work, and Sam would finally cry. The whole town would rejoice to hear such news.