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...only there's no "Germany" yet -- just a tumultuous alliance of Duchies and Protectorates, loosely bound together by the aging and childless soldier King Friedrich II, the accidents of geography, and the German Language.
Well, not even the language – the aristocracy prefer to speak French, and the educated classes still pass notes in Latin. But the common people still speak in German (except where they speak in Low dialects, or Polish, or Czech, or Russian.).
Amidst all this confusion, Europe is clattering into a new age. The Age of Faith and the Age of Beauty have both run their course, and now it’s Reason’s turn to try to explain the human condition. Suddenly everybody thinks the answers will be revealed by the next microscope slide, wild manuscript, or enlightened political upheaval.
Everybody, that is, except for a young scholar by the name of Luther Levy, who has an increasing stock of Questions and a diminishing supply of Answers. Caught between a rock and his own hard head, Luther has returned home from University short one doctorate in Theology and (possibly) one belief in God.
Luther does his best to find comfort in his eclectic family (and a healthy dose of self pity). Self-pity won’t pay the rent, though, and Luther has become desperate for employment, which isn’t easy to come by when your only marketable skill is scriptural exegesis.
When an acquaintance unexpectedly arrives in town with a risky job proposition, Luther finds himself even less certain than usual.
Hundreds of miles away, a small University is stranded in the woods along the Bohemian border. It boasts some impressive assets, including a library fit to stun the neediest scholar. But amongst the thousands of volumes purporting to provide light and understanding, there are quite a few lingering shadows.
Nowhere is it darker than between the University’s benevolent dictator of a Rector and its remarkable and elusive Librarian…except for perhaps in the woods outside, where human nature is forfeit to a much more brutal contract than any philosopher-king could devise.
...or so Luther Levy will soon discover.