Perutz's historical tapestries (Leonardo's Judas, The Marquis of Bolibar) have an unusual richness of detail, making the slowness of their unfolding less than bothersome. Here, the story structure is set from the start and needs only the thick plaster of character and history to make the whole thing stand. The venue is Prague, of the late 16th century. Rudolf II, the Holy Roman Emperor, oversees an empire of farce, where he's routinely bilked by his court--so much so that it is only the infusion of capital from Jewish financiers that keeps him afloat. One of these is Mordecai Meisl. But Meisl's wife is ""having"" an adulterous affair with the Emperor--""having"" because actually only their souls are meeting in a nightly dream, not their bodies, a spirit-transportation wholly expected in the great mystical city of Rabbi Loew, theosophist and cabalistic magician nonpareil. The depth of scholarship and scenic intelligence here is impressive: you come away knowing as much about decadent empires as you do about the Great Tradition. Enjoyable if static work.