(Warning: contains spoilers)
The story begins with twelve-year-old George Chapman on a class field trip to London's Natural History Museum. After a misunderstanding with his teacher in which he is accused of knocking down an exhibit, he is separated from the class and told to wait in isolation. Instead of obeying his teacher, George walks outside of the museum. In his frustration, he knocks the head of a dragon sculpture from the outer wall of the museum.
Almost immediately after he does this, George encounters various stone statues that come to life from the museum walls and begin moving. The statues chase George all the way to the Royal Artillery Memorial, where the boy is miraculously rescued by another moving statue. This bronze soldier, a part of the memorial, calls himself the Gunner. The statue then explains to George that the boy has entered another layer to the city of London, one where the statues are alive, and they interact and battle with each other. All statues act as they were made to act; the human statues, known as "spits" have their own personalities; while "taints" are made to be more animal-like and, oftentimes, hostile and dangerous.
George is taken by the Gunner to a parking garage where they hide from a cat gargoyle that was searching outside for them. The gargoyle found Edie hiding from it, but due to the ran that began, the gargoyle was forced to return to its post. Edie then follows and meets George and the Gunner in the parking garage; the fact that she can see them surprises the Gunner, as normal humans cannot see moving statues. The Gunner, realizing that Edie is a glint, refuses to allow her to accompany him and George. The two of them leave Edie behind as they head to Cleopatra's Needle in order to meet with the Sphinxes. Edie ignores the Gunner's warning and follows them anyways; she loses them at one point, but is able to figure out where they are headed, having heard the Gunner mention the Sphinxes before.
Unbeknown to the three protagonists, they are being hunted by the Walker. Aided by his assistant the Raven, the Walker seeks to escape from his bondage to the Stone Heart. With George being a threat to his plans, the Walker begins to recruit taints throughout the city to eliminate the boy.
Meeting the SphinxesEdit
Once at Cleopatra's Needle, George is asked by the two Sphinxes to answer a riddle. He succeeds at this, and he is granted one question to ask the Sphinxes. He asks them how to stop the taints from attacking him, and their answer is cryptic, but it is the first time that George hears of the Stone Heart, which he learns is the answer to his problem. Edie then appears and asks the Sphinxes to explain to her what a glint is, but they are reluctant to do so. One of the Sphinxes, the nice one, agrees to help her if she can tell what made the two sister statues different (or how the not-nice Sphinx got holes in her). Edie touches the not-nice Sphinx and glints a scene of the bombing of London during World War I, which she discovered was the answer to the question.
The two Sphinxes explain to Edie what a glint is. The Gunner then tells her that her question was a waste, as any spit could have explained this to her. Before they return to their plinths, the nice Sphinx suggests that George ask "the shaveling" what to do. None of them knowing of the meaning of the word, the Gunner decides to take George to the spit Dictionary Johnson after George suggested finding an actual dictionary. They travel there together, Edie following them again.
Dictionary and the DragonEdit
George, Edie and the Gunner then meet with Dictionary Johnson, a spit based on the 18th century British essayist Samuel Johnson. They present the word "shaveling" to Dictionary, who reveals it to be a synonym of "friar." The words "dark shaveling" lead the Gunner to think of the spit called the Black Friar, and the group then decides that this must be the answer to the Sphinx's advice. However, before they can act, the Raven appears above them. George and Edie take off across the street to find cover, but they are stopped by the Temple Bar Dragon, a taint guarding the area of Temple Bar.
The Dragon freezes George and Edie in place with its stare and traps them in a circle of flames. It then slashes George's arm with its claw, giving him a painful scar. Before the Dragon can deal further harm to George, the Gunner appears with his horse bridle in his hands. The Gunner bravely faces down the Dragon and wrestles it away from George and Edie, giving the children time to escape.
After they get away from the battle, George tells Edie that he is returning to his home. Despite Edie's warnings to not leave, George finds a taxi and climbs into it. The taxi takes him back to his mother's apartment, leaving Edie behind. The Raven stands next to Edie and listens to their conversation as this takes place.
At George's apartment
Back at his home, George finds a note from his mother, telling him that she had to go to an audition. He then speaks to Kay, his neighbor and babysitter, on the phone to tell her that he is okay. He refrains from telling Kay about his experiences in the un-London. He then hears a message that Mr. Killingbeck left to explain how George walked away when they were at the museum. George deletes this message.
George makes a sandwich and, after checking on his room, goes into his mother's room to eat. He calls his mother, but when she picks up she sounds very distracted. She tells George that she is in Madrid for an audition, and when she asks how he is doing, George lies again and says that he is fine.
After falling asleep, George is awoken when Edie rings the buzzer to his apartment. Through the camera to the system, Edie tells George that a gargoyle is on the roof of the apartment. She proves this by showing him her heart stone. George sees that it is the same cat gargoyle from earlier. At the same time, the Walker and the Raven arrive at the apartment. The pair of them ascend in the elevator to the top flat, only to find that George and Edie had both fled the building.
The Black Friar's pubEdit
George and Edie head towards the Black Friar's pub along the river. Ignoring the Gunner's warning to avoid going underground, George runs into a tunnel to try and reach the Black Friar. Before he makes it through, though, he is grabbed by an earthen hand that emerges from the wall. George is attacked by a group of limbs and a mouth that are all made from dirt. He only escapes when his hand touches one limb, causing it to break. George and Edie then go around the tunnel.
At the pub, they meet the Black Friar, a hospitable but unusually cheery spit. He invites the children inside his pub, which was closed down for repairs at the time. He provides them with warm clothes, food and drinks, and then he hears from them their story. The Friar leaves to investigate the tunnel that George and Edie spoke of, and in his absence, another spit makes his appearance in the pub. He is Little Tragedy, an impish cherub with a seemingly mischievous side to him. Tragedy tells the children that the Black Friar is not what he seems, but before he can say more, the Friar returns to the pub.
George and Edie leave the pub after the Black Friar eagerly asks to see George's stone dragon head. Not trusting the Friar, George convinces Edie that they have to return to his apartment to retrieve the head. The children head north towards the library to research the ("Winding Stairs") that the Friar mentioned. The Raven follows them from above, and then it flies to the Grid Man and informs the taint of the children.
The Grid Man and the FusilierEdit
That night, George and Edie make their way to High Holborn to find a safe place to sleep. They spot the Royal London Fusiliers Memorial in the middle of the street, and George suggests that the spit standing on top of the memorial can protect them. However, the Raven spots them from above, and it swoops in to alert a nearby taint called the Grid Man. The taint comes to life and drags its feet across the ground to attack the children. George tells Edie to run, and then tries to speak to the Fusilier on the memorial, but the statue does not respond. With the Grid Man still approaching, George tries to run from the taint, only to quickly be knocked down by a metal ball that the Grid Man hit towards his leg. Edie manages to warn George of the rebound of the metal ball, but while George ducks from the ball, the Grid Man spots, corners and captures Edie.The Grid Man carries Edie towards George, carefully holding the girl's head in between his two grids. George tries to speak to the taint and tell him to stop, and after this fails, the boy tries to fight back. This does not work either. The Raven returns to the shoulder of the Grid Man and tells the taint something, probably an order to kill Edie. Before the Grid Man can do anything, however, the Fusilier appears and orders the Grid Man to release Edie. Once again, the taint does not listen, so the Fusilier stabs the Grid Man through the back with his bayonet, causing the taint to release Edie.
A brief struggle ensues between the two statues, with the Grid Man rotating his body to face the Fusilier. Before the Grid Man can strike the Fusilier with his two grids, the Fusilier shoots the taint with his rifle three times to incapacitate him. He destroys the Grid Man with a final shot, and then kills the Raven. It is then discovered that the Fusilier was told by the Gunner's pigeon to help the children.
Meeting the ClockerEdit
The Fusilier takes George and Edie to the church of St. Dunstan in the West so that they can rest for the remainder of the night. The children enter the church, and despite feeling that somebody else is nearby, they decide to sleep. George wakes up and encounters the Clocker, a cursed man who is forced to watch time. As Edie sleeps, George and the Clocker have a conversation. George tells the Clocker about his experiences, and the Clocker then helps George decipher the bit of information about the "Winding Staircase" that the Black Friar gave them, identifying this as the Monument to the Great Fire of London.
The Clocker then allows George to go back to sleep, and he makes sure that the children will be safe when they sleep. When George awakes, the Clocker is gone.
Meanwhile, the Raven is reborn stuffed inside in an icy package. The bird is set free by the Walker, and the two of them go to the Grid Man. Seeing that the taint had been defeated, however, the Walker decides to summon the Minotaur to find George instead. The Raven gives the scrap of George's shirt to the Minotaur so that the taint will be able to track the boy.
At the MonumentEdit
George and Edie reach the Monument as it continues to rain. As Edie does not have enough money to enter the tower, she decides to stay behind. George lends her his coat so that she can stay warm while she waits. Before George leaves, Edie gives him her heart stone so that he can be alerted of any nearby taints.
At the top of the tower, George encounters the Raven, who is seemingly attracted to Edie's heart stone. George puts down the heart stone trying to fake the Raven into thinking he is holding it, but the stone gives off a sudden vision in George's head. The vision shows several locations in London that are located around the tower, and it ends at the London Stone.The Raven then tries to pull George out of the tower by grabbing his shoe, but when his shoe falls off, the Raven goes for the boy's leg instead. The bars around the top of the tower are all that keep George from falling. George's situation turns even more desperate when the cat gargoyle returns and helps the Raven. Before he is pulled from the tower, George is miraculously saved by somebody below who shot away the gargoyle and killed the Raven. George quickly descends the stairs and finds the Gunner waiting for him. Edie is with the spit.
The Gunner explains how the Officer saved him, and George tells the other two where the Stone Heart is located. The three of them run together to get to the London Stone. Edie is in unusually good spirits as they move; this was brought on by the Gunner's return. Her good mood immediately ends after she asks George to return her heart stone, and George realizes that he does not have it. Edie takes off running back to the Monument to find her stone.
The Monument is temporarily closed when Edie returns. As Edie is waiting to re-enter the tower, she is grabbed by the Minotaur. This is because Edie is still wearing George's coat, and the Minotaur was using George's scent to track him. Not being very intelligent but possessing significant strength and speed, the taint does not realize that he found the wrong child.
Angry at George for losing Edie's heart stone, the Gunner returns to the Monument to help the girl. George follows. The two of them discuss the difference between the Stone Heart and a heart stone; even though the Gunner says that Edie is not the answer to George's problems, he insists that they should help her anyways. By the time they are at the Monument, however, Edie is missing. All that the Gunner finds are tracks; these indicate that the Minotaur was in the area. The Gunner is surprised when George takes command of the situation and climbs the Monument himself to retrieve the heart stone.
When George is gone, the Walker appears. The Walker explains that due to Edie wearing George's coat, the Minotaur grabbed the wrong child. The Walker tells the Gunner to bring George to the Minotaur's lair so that the children can be exchanged. He reveals that he wants George to trade places with him, so that he will be free from the Stone. In anger, the Gunner tries to shoot the Walker, but the man is unharmed; only the letters "re" on his John Deere hoodie are damaged. Because this happened, the Walker forces the Gunner to hand over his bullets so that nothing will happen when they meet with the Minotaur. The Gunner reluctantly agrees, and he was also forced to swear an oath that he would not use any of his bullets. The Walker then leaves the scene.
Battle with the MinotaurEditGeorge and the Gunner go to find the Minotaur in order to rescue Edie. The Gunner is struck in surprise by the Minotaur when he rounds a corner. The taint has a pale and unconscious Edie in its arms. Before the Minotaur can charge again, the Gunner draws his revolver and reveals that he has one bullet left, which he hid from the Walker. The spit fires at the taint, but he misses. This is the first time that this happens; the Gunner guesses that because of the oath that he broke, his luck is already running out.
As the Minotaur drops Edie and prepares to charge, George comes up with a plan: he tells the Gunner to distract the taint as he makes a bullet out of his plasticine. The Gunner finds this plan to be ridiculous but, impressed with the boy's improvements in character, he hands George his revolver as he prepares to fight the taint.
The Minotaur and the Gunner then begin a violent brawl. The Minotaur charges the Gunner, who ducks and avoids most of the impact. The spit is then pushed to the edge of the railing, but before he is gored or pushed over the side, he kicks the Minotaur in the groin, stunning the taint. Meanwhile, George works hard to craft a bullet for the revolver. He also returns Edie her heart stone, which seems to have some positive effect on her.
The two statues continue their battle, crashing across the walkway. As soon as George says he is finished with the bullet, the Minotaur takes the chance to stab the Gunner in the gut with its horn. The two are gridlocked together for a moment, with George ready to shoot the gun at the Minotaur's eye, until the Minotaur manages to push the Gunner over the railing. The two statues fall onto a double-decker bus on the street below, which begins to pull away. George and Edie follow the bus, wanting to help the Gunner.
The battle between the statues continues on the top of the bus. The Minotaur tries to ram into the Gunner, but the spit dodges and thrusts the taint into the air just as the bus crosses an intersection. As a result, the Minotaur's horns strike the metal pole that holds up traffic lights, and the taint is trapped in midair.
George and Edie arrive where the bus was moments before, but they do not see the Minotaur until it is already upon them. The taint grabs both children, now very angry. George draws the Gunner's revolver, and before the Minotaur can do anything to him or Edie, he fires the gun into the taint's eye. The Minotaur crumbles into bronze scraps as the Gunner returns to the scene. The spit is badly wounded, but he is happy that George and Edie are fine. The three of them agree to continue to the London Stone together.
At the London StoneEditAt the London Stone, the Walker waits in an alley for George to arrive. He uses one of his mirrors to peer around the corner, so that the Gunner does not spot him. When George and Edie wait under cover as the Gunner inspects the area, the Walker appears behind them and grabs George, a dagger in his hand. He has George take the dragon head from his pocket. After Edie tells the Walker to stop, George jabs the dragon head into the Walker's face. The three enter a quick struggle. George gets grazed by the Walker's dagger, and Edie grabs the Walker's stone pendant and glints the stone. By doing this, she sees what the Walker did to earn his curse; he received it by chiseling the London Stone.
The glinting seemingly shocks the Walker, and it also scares him. Before he can do anything in response to Edie grabbing him, the Gunner grabs the cursed man from behind and embraces him, preventing him from moving. George now has his opportunity to put the dragon head on the London Stone and return to his world.
However, George hesitates. He worries that he will not remember the friends that he made in the un-London, and he fears leaving Edie alone. Both Edie and the Gunner push for George to make amends before time runs out, but he continues to hesitate. It takes Edie slapping and then, punching him, to convince George to turn away. As Edie turns away, she hears George ask where he is. She looks back, and sees that George looks confused. Edie refuses to help George, and continues to turn away. It is only when George mentions her name that she stops. Edie then realizes that George was joking about forgetting everything. The friends hug each other quickly, and Edie is very surprised with George's decision to stay behind.
The Walker makes a mocking remark about George's decision, and then he pulls his two mirrors from his pockets. He and the Gunner both fall into the mirrors, leaving George and Edie alone. The story ends with George deciding that they should go and rescue the Gunner.
- George Chapman
- Edie Laemmel
- The Walker
- Mr. Killingbeck
- George's mother
- The Clocker
- George's father (mentioned)
- Edie's mother (mentioned)
- Edie's stepfather (mentioned)
- The Gunner
- Dictionary Johnson
- The Black Friar
- Little Tragedy
- The Fusilier
- The Officer
- The Herculeses