Gwyn dons the disguise of the people's hero, Jackaroo, in order to help mete out justice in a kingdom where the lords don't care about the people's suffering and the people are killing and hurting each other to survive. Gwyn is an innkeeper's daughter who doesn't want to get married and doesn't want to spend the rest of her life working in her father's inn. The winter is difficult and there has been lots of desperate robberies and crimes being committed by people to steal basic necessities like food and clothes. Her father sends her to pick up some supplies from the King in order to survive the harsh winter. At the supply house, she learns from an old lady the tale of Jackaroo, a thief that saves the lives of innocents who are imprisoned by the King, gives food and money to the poor and is a symbol of freedom and justice. Gwyn accompanies the old woman to her homestead and finds out that the soldiers have taken the old woman's nanny goat, making it difficult for the old woman and her husband to survive the winter.
Back at the Inn, she finds out that there are two new guests from the city. It is unusual that anyone would be traveling during the winter so Gwyn is curious. One of the workers of the Inn, Burl, tells her the visitors are a Lord and his young son who are doing map-making work for the King. Later, Gwyn visits an old woman named Old Megg and finds that Old Megg has been robbed as well. Old Megg is brought to live with a neighbor and Gwyn promises to return to her house to help move all her possessions to her new home and shut down her old house.
One day, Gwyn's father asks her and Burl to accompany the Lord and his son as they travel the countryside. They travel until they find an eastern pass in the mountains before the lord commands that they return to the Inn. On their way back, they are caught in a snowstorm. Burl and the Lord continue onward to the Inn to get help for Gwyn and the lordling. But, the storm intensifies and Gwyn leads the little lordling to Old Megg's abandoned home to hunker down for the winter. Gwyn has to care for the lordling who acts like one more mature than his age. She teaches him how to do simple chores around the house like chop wood and make a fire. She also teaches him how to use a staff. As the days pass, the little lordling continues to ask her questions about how people like her live their life. In exchange, he teaches Gwyn how to read and write. He introduces himself as Gaderian. As she's exploring Old Megg's house, one day, she discovers a chest full of nobleman's finery. Gwyn is curious as to why Old Megg would have such things.
Finally, once the snow is thawed enough, Gwyn and Gaderian plan to return. Gwyn returns ahead of the Gaderian. His father immediately assumes she has left his son to perish and he draws his sword on her, threatening to kill her for failing to take care of his son. Luckily, Gaderian appears and the Lord makes amends to Gwyn. The Lord gives Gwyn a handsome sum for her services and in the coin pouch there is also a note from Gaderian telling her that he will not forget her. After receiving the gold, all her family can think of is that wealthier men may now be interested to marry her but Gwyn pronounces that she will not marry.
There is news that a war is stirring to the south and everyone in Gwyn's village understand this means taxes will be higher this year. One day, Gwyn returns to Old Megg's home and tries on the finery she found there. She puts on the hat, jacket, boots and mask and she pretends she is Jackaroo. Gwyn hears that a local fiddler may not be able to pay the taxes and may be evicted from his home. Dressed as Jackaroo and she gives the fiddler some of her coins. She is thrilled that a story about Jackaroo starts to spread. Later, Gwyn witnesses an innocent man be sent to hang for picking a fight with a soldier. Over the next few weeks, Gwyn notices that there are more beggars on the streets than the year before.
Gwyn continues dressing up as Jackaroo and helping the poor and suffering. On one of her trips, she rescues a baby from a burning house. She thinks it is bad enough that the Lords are mistreating the poor but now the people are turning to murdering and killing each other. She fears that there is no real law to keep people in check because the King is too preoccupied with collecting gold and warring. She vows to capture the three men who killed the baby's parents. Her exploits become more reckless. One day, she breaks into the steward's office and demands that he capture the three men and bring them to justice. She takes his signet ring to ensure that he does as she says.
Gwyn becomes impatient as she feels like she's only one person and there are so many people that need help throughout the Kingdom. At home, her family wonders where she goes off to all the time. Her father thinks she's seeing a man in secret but she insists she is not. Her father tells her that he plans on making her his heir, which is surprising to her. She tells him that she would like to think about it.
A few weeks later, an infamous highwayman is paraded around the village. The highwayman is due to be hanged in the King's city. Gwyn discovers that the highwayman is none other than her Uncle Win and she thinks about how she can save the man from being hanged. She approaches the soldiers guarding her Uncle Win and gives them ale that puts them to sleep. Burl follows her and asks her what she is up to but she doesn't explain herself. Later that night, she dresses as Jackaroo and returns while the soldiers are sleeping and she tries to convince her Uncle to escape with her. To her surprise, he laughs. He tells her that he is happy to die. He also tells her that long ago, he wore a mask like hers and that it changed his life for the worse. He urges her to put the mask away and stop the masquerading before it's too late. Otherwise, he advises that she leave the Kingdom entirely. Gwyn leaves her Uncle Win, confused by his words yet sensing that they are true.
Gwyn and her family attend the highwayman's hanging. Gwyn plans on paying to claim the body after the hanging but is surprised when Burl offers instead. Soon after the highwayman's hanging the steward brings in the three criminals that Gwyn had wanted him to capture. Feeling that as Jackaroo, she must also fulfill her promise of returning the steward's signet ring, she throws it at him while he is not looking. The steward was expecting Jackaroo to ride out and so he is angry that he lost the opportunity to capture him. One of the villagers laughs at how Jackaroo has made a fool of the steward and the steward thinks he is Jackaroo. Gwyn feels like she should not have returned the ring this way as it has humiliated the steward and who knows what retribution he may seek.
The steward captures an innocent villager and claims that the villager is Jackaroo. Gwyn dresses up like Jackaroo and plans to set things right however another person appears on the scene dressed as Jackaroo, as well. Gwyn recognizes the new Jackaroo's voice as Burl's. The steward's men chase Burl into the woods and Gwyn rides after them on horseback and causes a distraction to allow Burl a chance to escape. The soldiers are confused as to who is the true Jackaroo. One of the soldiers manages to cut her leg as she makes her own escape. She is overcome by the loss of blood and ends up falling off her horse and rolling down a hill.
When she wakes up, she finds herself in Old Megg's hut and Burl has tended to her wound. Burl tells her that everyone thinks she's run off with one of the village boys. Burl tells her he has a plan to bring her back to the village. When Gwyn is healed from her wound and ready to return to the Inn, there is a village announcement. All the villagers gather in the square where they see yet another Jackaroo. Gwyn recognizes the voice of the Lord who had visited their Inn all those winters ago. This Jackaroo asks Gwyn's father to become a spokesperson for the village and pronounces that the lords that govern the village must listen to the needs of the people.
Gwyn disguises herself as a beggar woman and Burl brings her to live with him at the Inn under the guise of his wife. Eventually, her father and mother find out the beggar girl is actually their daughter and they are relieved and happy she is safe. A few days later, the Lord and lordling Gaderian return. The story ends with Gwyn and Burl deciding to journey with Gaderian as they explore the rest of the Kingdom.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like that the story is about how the hero figure of Jackaroo is immortal, as long as there are brave regular people who are willing to don his mask and the mantle of his creed. I like that the story ends with three different Jackaroos, proving the point that you can hang one Jackaroo but another will pop up as long as there is injustice in the lands.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Gwyn first dons the Jackaroo costume and delivers coins to the fiddler. It was a very exciting moment and it was fun to hear the fiddler exaggerate her actions while recounting how he met Jackaroo at the local tavern.
Opinion about the main character:
I like that Gwyn is not satisfied with being just another girl whose destiny is to be married and have children. I like that she is daring, sharp-witted and kind.