A New York Times Notable Book
In this playful and surprisingly affecting novel, recalling the philosophical tales of Diderot and Voltaire, a powerful 18th-century prince, seeking his own immortality, devotes his entire wealth and the energy of his subjects to the creation of Rreinnstadt, a fantastic city that exists only on paper and in the minds of its creators. Maps must be drawn, streets given names, buildings planned, and citizens created with complete biographies and all the foibles of the human condition.
Among Rreinnstadt's fictional inhabitants is Pfitz, a count's loyal servant who mysteriously disappears one night from a tavern. Enamored of Pfitz's real-life biographer Estrella, one of the city's cartographers sets out on a quest to find Pfitz, hoping he will be rewarded by Estrella's love. His search leads him into a story of jealousy, intrigue, and murder, and into a city whose population includes a man in love with shadows, another who trains performing bees, and a writer who is driven insane by the suspicion that he is the concoction of a collective delusion.