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Literature / Diana Tregarde

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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 story 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 story 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 e-book Magic 101 consists of this story and the short story "Witching Hour."

There are several other short stories: two published in the 'Best of' collections for Marion Zimmer Bradley's fantasy magazine—one is a pilot version of Diana and Andre's first meeting in Children of the Night, and the other is "Satanic, Versus," a hysterically funny crossover with the RPG Stalking the Night Fantastic (with permission of the game's author). Another short story, "Killer Byte," was also published in the magazine, currently available separately only as an e-book.

The series contains examples of:

  • Akashic Records: In Burning Water, Diana uses her associate, who is by nature a medium, to access the akashic record to get information about the ancient history behind the threat they're facing.
  • Alpha Bitch: Fay Harper from Jinx High is the Alpha Bitch from hell: she's actually a two-hundred-year old, bodysnatching witch who enforces her will with mental control and fatal "accidents."
  • Artistic License Geography: In Burning Water, a sacrificial victim is found on a rock at Bachman Lake Park in Dallas, Texas. Diana is examining the crime scene with a local police detective. Their conversation is pretty standard for the genre—bloodstains, time of death, witnesses, &c. What's missing from their exchange are the times when they would be unable to hear each other due to the jet airliners landing at and taking off every five minutes from the adjacent Love Field airport.
  • Artistic License Religion: Lackey admits in the epilogue to Burning Water that she changed several elements of Aztec Mythology she was working with for story purposes.
  • Asshole Victim: Most of the murder victims who get any introduction in Burning Water, including some children, which is especially jarring as the narrative goes from their POV showing Kids Are Cruel at length and basically gloating over their incipient deaths, to our heroes', who are absolutely horrified by, well, the murder of young children.
  • 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.
  • Bad Powers, Good People: Dave in Children of the Night, after he and the other members of the band become psychic vampires and are converted from feeding on positive emotions to negative ones like fear and pain. He resolves not to go along with the other psivamps and has a fantasy of using his abilities for good by feeding on the deserving. When he actually tries it, however, he discovers that the hunger doesn't distinguish between the bad guys and the victims, and he nearly turns on the victims of the would-be rapists he'd just killed. In the end, he helps take out the other psivamps, then commits suicide rather than reach the point where his hunger will override his self-control.
  • Bondage Is Bad: The German porn shop owner in Burning Water, who at least shows very real callousness when he didn't check that a sub had a rubber/latex allergy and caused her death from anaphylactic shock.
  • Bound and Gagged: In Burning Water, one minor character realizes he's been targeted by a mind control spell and demands his brother (a cop, so he actually has handcuffs available) and his sister-in-law cuff him to the bed. It holds him long enough for two other characters to break the spell.
  • 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 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.
  • Cannot Cross Running Water: Children of the Night addresses this matter by saying that vampires don't cross running water because they're territorial and streams often serve as natural boundaries for hunting territory, with the vampire dryly adding that one might as well say vampires can't cross major highways.
  • Cats Are Magic: Subverted in the short story "Arcanum 101." When Di is observing the house of someone she believes may be involved in black magic, she sees a cat wander past the house with no reaction... and thinks to herself that this doesn't mean anything because, superstitions notwithstanding, cats are too self-absorbed to notice magic that isn't affecting them directly.
  • Character Overlap: 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 his own novel 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.'
  • Christianity is Catholic: Lampshaded in Jinx High, in which a character pursued by demons considers sheltering in a nearby church, because in movies demons can't set foot on holy ground. She decides against it because the movies always show Catholic churches and this one is Methodist.
  • Compulsory School Age: Starts out justified in Jinx High. The villain Grand Theft Me'd her daughter, who was already in public school. Then the justification falls apart when she thinks about how previously she'd been able to claim her current body was being educated at home by private tutors — homeschooling is legal in Oklahoma.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Despite her increasing recklessness during Jinx High, Fay Harper the villain, is this. Continual Grand Theft Me or not, it's the only reason she's lived this long.
  • Creepy Cross Dresser: the villain of "Arcanum 101". They're so good at the 'Cross dresser' part that the shock of being confronted with the villain's real gender nearly gets Di seriously hurt. It turns out the villain kidnapped a child as a Human Sacrifice to an ancient god to pay for a mystical sex change—having been turned down for a regular one on psychological grounds i.e. being batshit crazy and evil.
  • 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 for her, 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.
  • Dine and Dash: At one point in Jinx High, Fay Harper is reminded she needs to feed her demon allies soon, shortly before seeing a pair of asshole cops outside their jurisdiction harassing some teens. She arranges to frame herself for this, counting on the restaurant owner to call on the cops in question (who are eating at the same restaurant) instead of wasting time phoning 911. Sure enough, the two cops promptly become Demon Chow. She then runs back to the restaurant claiming it was a simple case of Forgot to Pay the Bill to make sure the owner doesn't give up and call 911 anyway.
  • Domestic Abuse: In Children of the Night, there's a scene where a patrol cop is telling the waitress at a diner (who volunteers at a domestic abuse support group) about recent domestic violence cases he's responded to so that she can contact the victims and get them help before things get out of hand.
  • Don't Wake the Sleeper: In Jinx High, there's something dangerous sleeping under Tulsa, Oklahoma. Despite being smack in the middle of Tornado Alley, storms seem to avoid the area and it's speculated that the old goddess (Diana's best guess of what it is) keeps them away so they don't disturb her rest. All the magic energy being thrown about in the climax whips up a storm that nearly does wake her, but Di stops the Big Bad just in time.
  • 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...
  • Familial Body Snatcher: The villain of Jinx High has survived since before the American Revolution via Grand Theft Me, but can only possess a blood descendant. Or at least a blood relative. The end of the novel strongly implies she was able to jump back to the current host's mother, a previous host body. She's tried moving into the bodies of non-relatives, and they've all died.
  • Feedback Rule: During the Spring Prom in Jinx High, almost everybody on stage has trouble with feedback in the sound system. A building (and magically-aggravated) storm is causing a huge buildup of static electricity, so possibly justified if no one at the school has ever heard of surge protectors.
  • For Halloween, I Am Going as Myself: Invoked and averted in the story "Satanic, Versus..." The heroine considers going to a costume party with her boyfriend as a witch and a vampire—but he argues that there's no point in going as what they really are, and they dress as The Avengers (1960s) instead.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: Andre. When Diana first encounters him in Children of the Night, she thrusts a crucifix in his face. His response is to look at her sadly, take the cross from her hand and kiss it reverently. He and Diana become allies and lovers as the story progresses.
  • 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.
  • Geometric Magic: Magic circles and the like are commonly used by most magicians in the series, ranging from a simple circle sketched into the air with a ritual tool to elaborate forms inlaid into the floor. Part of shutting down a ritual magic location in Jinx High involves using improvised hammers to break every line in an inlaid summoning circle at least once.
  • Give Me Back My Wallet: In Children of the Night, Diana Tregarde doesn't have the energy to confront a pickpocket, since all he got was a decoy wallet filled with newspaper.
  • 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.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: How Di gets involved in Burning Water and Jinx High—in both cases, members of her old Scooby Squad, now all grown up, get into situations where they recognize some serious supernatural shit is going down, and call on the most powerful magic-user they know for help. In Jinx High, Terry Kestrel is also a minor precog, so it might also be his ability telling him to get Di, possibly heightened by parental instinct.
  • Holy Burns Evil: Subverted in Children of the Night, when Diana first encounters the vampire Andre. She thrusts a crucifix into his face; he reacts by gently taking the crucifix from her hand and kissing it, saying, "I need not fear the Son of God, only the sun in the sky." Fortunately for Diana, Andre is a Friendly Neighborhood Vampire.
  • 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.
  • Horror Hunger: Children of the Night has an Unwillingly Evil character who has been converted into a psivamp; he can only survive by empathically causing and feeding on strong negative emotions, rage and fear etc, in people. He can't control it very well, so they either die or "burn out", which is implied to be worse. The hunger is described as being ravenous and directly connected to his empathic ability, and even when he feeds it it's never really quiet. He tries to feed only on the attack junkies and rapists of New York, preying on the predators, but the hunger doesn't distinguish between these people and their victims, and he knows he won't be able to do this for long before he loses control.
  • Human Sacrifice:
    • The "Texas Ripper" murders in Burning Water (thought to be the work of an ordinary serial killer by the cops) are actually a series of sacrifices to the Aztec gods.
    • Some of the deaths in Jinx High probably count as well.
  • Impossibly-Low Neckline: In Jinx High, the villainess commissions a costume straight out of the American Revolutionary period for the school dance. The bodice is cut so low that one of her boyfriends has almost complete access to her boobs while she's wearing it (handy when you need to distract said boyfriend while the mind control spell takes effect).
  • 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.
  • It's All About Me: The Big Bad of Jinx High understands the magical law of karma ... specifically she understands that when others do wrong, it leaves them open for her to harm them. The idea that she might be subject to this same law doesn't even occur to her.
  • Kicking Ass in All Her Finery: At one point in Jinx High, Diana Tregarde takes on a much larger jock, who happens to be high on PCP, while wearing a silk formal dress. As the dress was specifically designed with a full enough skirt to allow karate kicks, and she was combining the karate with her psychic powers, the dress survived undamaged. This is also Truth in Television: a properly made dress of pure silk, like Di's, is actually very tough and hard to rip, though blades would have been a different story.
  • 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.
  • Life Energy: Children of the Night has 'psi-vamps' who drain energy from others. In this case the energy is tied to emotions — they drain excitement at first, and later hate and fear. Also, a completely drained victim is usually not physically dead, but is emotionally/mentally burned out (described as a mindless hulk, with no chance of recovery).
  • Lighter and Softer: while there's always a happy or bittersweet ending, most of the Di Tregarde stories deal with rather grim plots. Except for "Satanic, Versus," which is straight comedy (it's almost a parody of the other stories) and completely effing hilarious.
  • Magick: In one of the novels, Diana comments on how pretentious a foe who insists on spelling magic with a k is.
  • 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. During the writing seminar in Jinx High she gives details about the life of a genre fiction writer taken from Lackey's own experience.
  • 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.
  • Must Be Invited: Andre Le Brel, in Children of the Night, can enter public buildings freely but cannot enter Diana's apartment building (not just her apartment) until invited to come in. Once the invitation is given, though, he can break in at a later time to take shelter from the sun.
  • 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." Even if she were so inclined, it's not a good idea for a late-October ritual in New York City.
  • Occult Detective: Diana Tregarde isn't officially a detective, but a Guardian's job description includes finding out whether the Bad Stuff Going On is mystical, and ending it if it is.
  • 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.
  • Parasitic Immortality: Fay Harper keeps herself immortal by body swapping with her daughters before killing them afterwards.
  • The Power of Rock: Jinx High contains a magirock battle between two demon-infested electric guitars supported by a dark sorceress, and a hippie spirit-infested guitar and a guardian/witch. It ends when the speakers, not intended for arcane use, explode.
  • Predator Turned Protector: Alluded to in Children of the Night. One of the psivamps has been fighting his need to feed, and the others realize once he heads back to their base that he's given in. He tells them a folk tale about a lion cub adopted by a herd of sheep, who grew up thinking he was a sheep until the day a pack of wolves attacked the flock. The others figure he's gone over to their side, he doesn't bother telling them that the story ends with the lion killing all the wolves. (He'd chowed down on a couple rapists so he could act as The Mole.)
  • Refusal of the Call: Di tried this for a while in the past, with traumatic consequences.
  • Sacred Flames: At one point in Burning Water, a minor character is under a mind-control spell cast using Sympathetic Magic. Another character kindles a sacred fire to burn the tie away — when the torch gets close to the astral form of the tie, it intensifies to near-blowtorch levels. (The ritual works.)
  • Samaritan Syndrome: Diana has a minor, slightly selfish version of the trope in Children of the Night. She's a Guardian, endowed with incredible mystic powers, and she has to help anyone in her area who really needs those powers. If she doesn't, there are other Guardians who will try and stop a developing crisis, but they're a little ways away and one of them is old, one of them has a broken leg, and one has extreme acrophobia. They'll do it, but she doesn't want them to have to, not when her only problem is that the threat in question gives her panic attacks.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Supernatural Powers!: In Jinx High, a Vain Sorceress uses her magical powers to rule the local high school.
  • 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.
  • Shout-Out: It might be a coincidence that there is a soul-devouring creature who can appear in the body of his victims whose name is also Doro, but it seems plausible that this was a reference.
  • Sin Invites Possession: The villain of Jinx High can't Grand Theft Me the next generation until that person can be morally corrupted.
  • Stand-In Parents: In Jinx High, the villain who Body Surfs to her daughter each generation appears to be under 18, and has an artificial construct that masquerades as her aunt/guardian while her mother is in a mental hospital with the personality of the daughter just evicted from her original body in Mom's body.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: It's lampshaded in Burning Water when Mark Valdez remembers how he met Diana Tregarde for the first time.
  • Unexpectedly 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.
  • 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.
  • Vampires Hate Garlic: Diana's agent tried to invoke this during Children of the Night by sending her a delivery from his favorite Jewish deli — garlic bread, garlic bagels, chicken soup full of garlic ... along with a note telling her to keep Andre away from her neck. Diana laughs so hard she almost drops the bag. (Andre is unaffected, and almost as amused.)
  • Virgin Sacrifice: Inverted in Burning Water, where Tezcatlipoca needed to sacrifice a woman who had borne at least one child to return to Earth.
  • 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.
  • Your Vampires Suck: In Children of the Night, vampire Andre dismisses several traditional limitations as "silliness," in particular the inability to cross running water, which he ascribes to a misunderstanding of their tendency to set territorial boundaries. He tells Diana that it could just as easily be said that they do not cross mountain ranges or major highways, since they define their territories by major landmarks.

Alternative Title(s): Burning Water, Children Of The Night, Jinx High