Winnet Stonejar lives alone in a magical kingdom. One day a sorcerer tricks her into becoming his apprentice. Winnet stays with the sorcerer for so many years she actually believes that the sorcerer is her father. Later, Winnet meets a strange boy in the kingdom and invites him to one of the feasts at their castle. At the feast, Winnet's father grows angry with the boy. He calls him "a blight" and locks him up. Winnet frees him. Later the sorcerer orders Winnet to leave the village or become a goatherd for her crime. If she leaves, the sorcerer warns, he will also take her powers. Jeanette does not know what to do, but one of the ravens tells her that the sorcerer is lying because he cannot take her powers. The raven cannot go with her, but coughs up his heart for her to take. It is a brown stone pebble. She heads into the forest.
The story returns to Jeanette. She has moved to Morecombe to work with the woman who makes funeral wreaths. Jeanette also works as an ice cream truck driver. One day, she passes Elsie's house and sees a large crowd. She goes inside and discovers that Elsie has died. Her mother, the pastor, and Mrs. White are there and are unfriendly to Jeanette and tell her to leave. Jeanette grows upset and continues selling her ice cream to the people outside.
The narrative returns to the tale of Winnet who has collapsed after wandering in the forest. A woman takes her to a nearby village. The villages think that the sorcerer is mad, so Winnet conceals her past and her powers. She tries to learn their language, but still perceives that she is an outsider in their midst. One day Winnet hears about a beautiful city far off that is guarded by tigers. No one from the village has ever been there, but Winnet decides that she is going to try and go despite the skepticism of the others.
Jeanette learns that Elsie's casket recently has arrived at the funeral home. Jeanette takes special care of Elsie and sits up with her all night. On the day of the funeral, one of the workers is ill so Jeanette has to serve the food, despite her conflict with the church. She manages to stay out of the way until she serves dessert. When her mother and old friends see her, they are repulsed. They leave angrily. Miss Jewsbury appears however and invites Jeanette to her house. Jeanette refuses to go. Jeanette gets a job working in a mental hospital.
Winnet finds a map with the city on it and sees that the city is in the center of a river. She must get a boat to get there. She studies boat builders to learn their trade. One night, Winnet dreams that her eyebrows form two bridges that lead to a hole between her eyes. The hole opens upon a spiral staircase that runs down to her stomach. She knows that she must go inside herself to understand her difference. Upon waking, Winnet decides to get a boat and leave for the city; she knows that she will not return from whence she came.
Jeanette now is in the city. Someone asks her when she last saw her mother. Jeanette contemplates the way that coming to city allowed her to escape her past. She wonders if she will ever be able to return. She thinks that if she had just stayed and read the law as it was written, she would have become a priest. But instead she has become a prophet. Prophets make their own texts from uncertain meanings and are often rejected by their people.