This is a big book and probably longer than it needed to be. That said this original fantasy story is far less derivative than most stories that use a middle ages backdrop as their template. It's setting owes more to Renaissance Italy than to the English & French histories that usually appear in fantasy. The use of extremely talented artists whose painting are effectively the treaties and other documents of society creates a competitive class of artists who will do anything to be the best of their generation. When one genius finds a way to extend his life beyond it's natural length while holding onto his talent, when he also finds a way to punish the cousin he loves for falling in love with someone other than himself by condemning her to life inside one of his paintings, the story goes from unusually interesting to compelling. I'm glad I read it.