Matching the reach of Richard's ambition--to dream upon a crown--is the boldness of Joanne Williamson's conception--to weave around Shakespeare's words a narrative of the reign of Henry VI, its dynastic rivalries, their intrigue and bloody resolution. The technique requires a fine adjustment of continuity to dialogue to avoid the semblance of program notes; it also requires the reader to adjust to the decided contrast between Elizabethan figuration and contemporary straightforwardness. Necessarily it requires a special sort of reader, but the youngster who perseveres beyond the sometimes awkward early chapters, made more difficult by the establishment of complex relationships, will be caught up in the life of the time and the fate of the characters: poor Henry, his mind wandering, intermittently irresolute and regal; bitter, caustic Margaret; ""noble"" Gloucester; iron-willed Richard of York, his imprudent eldest son Edward, his warped youngest son Richard. Larger-than-life but lifelike here, they may well lead readers to the plays, will certainly leave them something to think upon. The illustrations are magnificent evocations of the drama and handsome in their own right.