William Shakespeare reincarnates as an English Mastiff in San Francisco, and tricks a young ballerina into collaborating with him to revise his tragedies, beginning with Romeo and Juliet.
At fifteen, Liliana Mink is set to become the youngest dancer to play Juliet in the history of the San Francisco Ballet Theater. Out of her depth and rejected by company members because of her age, she makes mistakes that get her into trouble. She's unable to get through the death scene of Romeo and Juliet without incident, and three days before her sixteenth birthday, her ballet master, Grigor Vinogradov, threatens to fire her.
When Lily passes a homeless man and his colossal dog on the street, she stops to rummage in her purse for some change to give them. The dog, an English Mastiff, is William Shakespeare, and his owner none other than Romeo. She’s a kindred spirit, they tell her. She also hates the ending. All she has to do is help them change a single event in the drama. Lily declines their offer and gives them her lunch. In return, Romeo hands her a dog-eared book, and as Lily leafs through pages thin as tissue, she collapses in a doorway.
Moments later, she wakes to find herself in unfamiliar surroundings. This is not a world of only Shakespeare’s making; it’s now Lily’s too, a world of childhood terrors, forgotten nightmares and contemporary conflicts. Her choice unravels the second half of the play and turns an ancient city on its head. Without lines to guide them, Shakespeare's characters look to Lily for leadership. Pursued by an arch-rival who becomes the greatest enemy she’s ever had to face, at odds with Shakespeare himself, who disagrees with her choice and becomes a menace, Lily must save herself before she can rescue the doomed couple. And if she can’t do that, the grand city of Verona will descend into the Dark Ages.