“This is the excellent foppery of the world, that when we are sick in fortune, often the surfeits of our own behavior, we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and stars; as if we were villains on necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion.” —Edmund the Bastard, King Lear
When I set about creating a secondary world for my fantasy novel, The Queens of Innis Lear, I knew I wanted to use the metaphors of the natural world traditionally found in Elizabethan literature and which Shakespeare used to explore the deterioration of the eponymous lead in King Lear, the play that inspired my novel.
Innis Lear is an island where nature is magical, practically sentient itself. The trees speak, the rootwaters of the island have a basic will to thrive, and the distant stars hold power over people and the progress of modern civilization. There are two main philosophies: the religion of star prophecy, where priests worship through studying the stars and interpret their signs as behavioral guides, and the practice of wormwork, where wizards commune with the roots and waters of the earth to derive power and influence progress. While the philosophies can, in a healthy kingdom, weave together into a layered, complicated system of magic and belief, Innis Lear is no longer a healthy kingdom, having fallen into decay by only upholding the side of fanatical belief in the stars.