Literature / Diana Tregarde

The Diana Tregarde series is a set of three urban fantasy novels by Mercedes Lackey. The primary character in all three is Diana herself, a romance novelist who is also a magical defender called a Guardian.

The novels in the series are:
  • Burning Water (1989)
  • Children of the Night (1990)
  • Jinx High (1991)

Burning Water is set in Dallas, where a serial killer is on the loose ... but he's not just a serial killer. Mark Valdez, a college friend of Diana's, is a Dallas cop in the Homicide division, and is picking up on hints that there's a mystic element to all the murders.

Children of the Night is a prequel novel, set in New York City. A younger Diana meets some of the characters referred to in the first novel, and faces both vampires and her own fears.

Jinx High is set after Burning Water. Diana visits Jenks, Oklahoma note , officially to run a writing seminar for an advanced English class at the local high school. Her real reason is to investigate a string of unusual events, that seem to be focused on the son of a close friend.

The anthology book Trio of Sorcery features "Arcanum 101". This book goes back to Diana Tregarde's college days, her first semester at Harvard. But of course she is a Guardian, and nothing is ever simple for a Guardian, not even what her neighbors are up to. This book came out in 2010 and contains numerous discrepancies in continuity with the books, such as the absence of several characters previously mentioned as having met Di in college.

The series contains examples of:

  • Actually Real Magic: This trope is how Diana and Mark originally met (the scene is a flashback in Burning Water). During their college days, one of Mark's buddies was studying anthropology, and organized a Halloween seance to see if there might be something to those old rituals. They were trying to summon Julius Caesar and got a demon instead. Diana had to put studying for her mid-terms aside to rescue Mark.
  • Alpha Bitch: Fay Harper from Jinx High.
  • Artistic License Religion: Lackey admits in the epilogue to Burning Water that she changed several elements of the Aztec myths she was working with for story purposes.
  • Badass Adorable: Diana. Barely 5 feet tall and built like a ballerina, she's also a crack shot, holds a black belt in karate, and is a skilled magical combatant. At one point in Jinx High, she takes out a much larger football player who is tripping on PCP.
  • Broken Bird: At some point before Children of the Night, Diana was nearly killed by a magical being. Getting over that trauma is a major element in the novel.
  • The Cameo: in Jinx High, Tannim from the SERRAted Edge series shows up as a student at Jenks High School. He has the nerve to get Diana on the dance floor - and in Chrome Circle he refers to witnessing Diana and Faye's knock-down magical fight in the school parking lot. It was the trigger for Tannim getting 'serious about magic... or else it was going to have me for lunch.'
  • Crazy-Prepared: Despite her increasing recklessness during Jinx High, Fay Harper the villian, is this. continual Grand Theft Me or not, it's the only reason she's lived this long.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: Di was not enthusiastic about become a Guardian, and tried to ignore her magical heritage in favor of a normal life. Unfortunately, a Guardian's power - especially if untrained and going unused - is a beacon to all kinds of supernatural nastiness, and Di's attempted Refusal of the Call nearly got her killed when a particularly dangerous specimen tried to have her for lunch.
  • Demonic Possession: The Big Bad of Jinx High tries crossing this trope with Soul Jar — the plan is to summon three demons and bind them into the electric guitars used by the band playing at Spring Prom. The demons are under orders to pump as much negative energy as possible into the music, triggering a riot (and giving said villain far more blood magic energies than were spent for the summoning). Unfortunately, one of those guitars was already occupied by a spirit that wanted nothing to do with this, thank you. Diana and the "good" guitar manage to fry the other guitars and send the demons back to Hell.
  • Eating Optional: Andre only gains nourishment from blood, but can drink and enjoy other liquids. The psivamps from Children of the Night become this as well.
  • Emotion Eater: Among the various types of "vampire" that appear in Children of the Night are this type. As long as they're feeding on positive emotions like the exhilaration of a concert crowd, they're fine. Once they begin feeding on pain and fear, however...
  • The Empath: Diana.
  • Gas Station of Doom: The opening scene of Jinx High has a character walking to a closed gas station to use the pay phone (the book was written before everyone and his goldfish had a cell) and promptly becoming Eldrich Horror Chow.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: An in-universe example in Jinx High: the spring dance at the high school starts off with a Maypole dance, and Diana recognizes the specific form of the dance as the Sex Magick variant instead of the "standard" fertility rite (which would be bad enough in the Bible Belt). note 
  • Grand Theft Me: Fay Harper has been pulling this since before the American Revolution. What makes it even more horrible is that she can only do it to her own child. Fay's been an almost literal Black Widow for centuries; marrying for wealth and breeding stock, killing her husband, then effectively killing her children - or in the real Fay's case, keeping her locked up in an asylum, just in case.
  • Homeschooled Kids: Fay complains at one point about having to waste her time going to high school instead of being homeschooled by a private tutor at least, that would have been what she was officially doing .... Oklahoma law would have allowed Fay to be homeschooled, Lackey never explains why Fay's mom didn't set this up before moving herself into Fay's body.
    • Jinx High was written in the early nineties. Maybe the law was different, then? Or maybe Fay was complaining about the social constraints rather than the legal ones - she definitely didn't want anyone thinking of the rich, 'orphaned' homeschooled girl being so weird they came to check on her on a regular basis. Going to high school may be boring, but as long as she keeps up the facade it's probably by far the safest option (not to mention all the Power she could skim off the seething hormonal dramas of hundreds of teens penned up together for 30-odd hours every week). ...Or maybe Lackey just ignored that fact because she needed Fay in high school in order to cross paths with Diana.
  • Human Sacrifice: The murders in Burning Water.
    • Some of the deaths in Jinx High probably count as well.
  • Intoxication Ensues: A dark example in Jinx High, when magic is used to shoot PCP directly into Sandy's bloodstream.
  • I Owe You My Life: In Children of the Night, Diana rescues several kidnapped Romani children. The clan considers themselves to have an honor debt to Diana until she finally finds something they can do to clear the debt in Burning Water.
  • Kiss of the Vampire: "Standard" vampires like Andre have this ability, Diana theorizes it developed as a way to keep dinner from running away. When conscious, the vampire can control the amount of pleasure the other person feels. When Diana nicks her wrist and sticks the cut into an unconscious note  Andre's mouth, let's just say it gets a bit out of control.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: A mystic trap set up by Tezcatlipoca in Burning Water works similarly to this trope. Once Diana trips it, she retains all her knowledge, but can't put things together to solve the case unless someone else points out a connection.
  • Magnetic Medium: Mark Valdez would be one of these if he wasn't under heavy shielding — it's very easy for spirits to slip into his body. Robert from Burning Water is another one, who's become a Willing Channeler for Tezcatlipoca.
  • Mind Control: How Tezcatlipoca in Robert's body gets Sherry to prepare to be sacrificed.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Deke decides in Jinx High that Diana and his dad Larry are spending time alone together because they're carrying on an affair. The real reason is to hunt down the mystical danger that wants Deke for lunch. But Deke doesn't find out about his own mystic talents until late in the novel, and had no clue that both his parents were in Diana's Scooby Squad in college, so you can't really blame him.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Diana pays the bills with cheesy romance novels.
  • MRS Degree: Fay muses at one point in Jinx High that half her female classmates are only going to college to snag a husband.
  • Mugging the Monster: In Children of the Night, a shapeshifting souleater vampire who leaves the villains' group and comes back sated is said by the group's leader to have been "trolling for rapists" in the form of an attractive young woman. Dave, who is repulsed and uncomfortable about basically murdering random people but needs to feed, thinks this sounds like a good idea, and so he wanders Central Park until a junkie attacks him. It doesn't turn out to be the guilt-free experience he hoped for, however.
  • No Warrant? No Problem!: In Jinx High, when Diana, Larry, and Mark find Fay Harper's ritual space, Mark picks the lock on both the gate across the road and the building itself.
    Mark: Boy, I'll tell you, it's amazing how careless people are, leaving their gates unlocked like that.
    • Justified in that while Mark's a cop (outside his jurisdiction, but still a cop), it's not like anything will be going before a judge the group just wants to sabotage any spells the owner has prepared and drain off the owner's stored Mana. And the owner can't call the cops about the break-in either, without causing serious issues for herself.
  • Nude Nature Dance: Alluded to in Children of the Night, when Diana tells another Wiccan to bring his robe to the Samhain ritual because "I don't do skyclad".
  • One-Hour Work Week: Specifically averted by Diana during the writing seminar in Jinx High.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Children of the Night features three different kinds of supernatural creature which can loosely be considered vampires:
    • Conventional undead vampires like Andre LeBrel, who follow a lot (though by no means all) of the traditional folklore. In particular, they're vulnerable to sunlight and wood (thus the whole bit about stakes) but not garlic, can cross running water with no difficulty (Andre suggests the superstition about this came from the tendency of vampires to be territorial and streams and rivers making excellent natural boundary markers), and do not sleep in coffins but do need to have a small amount of the dirt from their grave site with them when they rest (Andre keeps his safely stored inside a metal armband, ensuring that nobody will be able to separate him from it without taking off his hand).
    • Emotion Eaters like Master Jeffries, who can turn normal humans like Dave and his bandmates into more of his kind by an unclear process involving dubious red pills. Not everyone is capable of making the transition, however - Jack, the drummer, only gets a temporary high, and around eight other people die from whatever it is Jeffries gave them. They start off feeding on positive emotions, but being fed the pain and terror of a human being's death alters their metabolism such that afterward they can only take sustenance from negative emotions.
    • A Japanese gaki or "hungry ghost," depicted as supernatural beings who feed on any number of things. Many gaki feed on harmless things, but Di describes nastier varieties that feed on flesh, blood, or souls.
  • Refusal of the Call: Di tried this for a while in the past, with traumatic consequences.
  • Sex Magic: In Jinx High, the Big Bad can (and does) use other forms of magic, but seems to prefer sex magic when it comes to controlling people.
  • Sin Invites Possession: The villain of Jinx High can't Grand Theft Me the next generation until that person can be morally corrupted.
  • Vagina Dentata: Fay Harper's Servitor (a type of magical construct) was deliberately built with one of these, and it's how the Servitor feeds. Makes for a rather squicky end for one character, even if he is a classic Jerk Jock.
  • Your Soul Is Mine: Hidoro in Children of the Night is a soul-eating gaki. Like most of its kind, it takes extra enjoyment from making the deaths of its victims as painful and terrifying as possible, and can shapeshift into its victims after eating them.