Rownie, an orphan boy in a steam-punk -- or maybe clock-punk -- universe, was taken in, like other children, by a witch named Graba, who has clockwork chicken legs and lives in a house she can move about.
But the day it opens, he runs an errand for her and spend the coins instead on watching goblins act. It is forbidden for citizens to act in the city, because acting is faking it, but as the goblins point out, they're not citizens. And when they ask for someone from the audience, Rownie goes up against the law, and is a giant.
Which is where things begin. It goes on to recount a tale two sisters with a magical origin who had separated, a lot of pigeons, the Lord Mayor wishing to speak personally with Rownie, fishing weeds out of the River, the danger of floods, a fox mask, a curse that causes mask to come to life, a hidden troupe of actors, and a girl who brings them bread, among other things.