Before it’s time: Mercedes Lackey’s Diana Tregarde series.
Before there was Butcher’s Dresden Files, Murphy’s Walker Papers, or Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London, there was Diana Tregarde, Guardian and witch extraordinaire.
Deemed by her author Mercedes Lackey as a series that “did not sell”*, the Diana Tregarde series comprises of three books and a novella, and the character is featured in short stories within Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine. The novella Magic 101 is the most modern story, published in 2010.
Diana Tregarde is a witch, whose day-job is writer. When not trying to meet her publisher’s deadlines, Diana is investigating unusual supernatural and paranormal occurrences. The books are set in America, in the early 1970’s. The difference in time can occasionally be somewhat jarring to the reader, but Lackey’s talent for world-building and characterisation keeps the time difference from being too off-putting.
There is a faint hint of romance to the first book, Children of the Night, in which Diana has to investigate a paranormal problem and runs into an ex, but unlike the other series of hers I have written about here (the Elemental Masters and 500 Kingdoms series), romance is not a continuing underlying theme. Indeed, the Tregarde books are somewhat darker than Elemental Masters and 500 Kingdoms. Whether that is because they are slightly more realistic (as realistic as Urban Fantasy can get, anyway), I am not entirely sure, but I feel that may be the case.
Children of the Night introduces the character of Diana, and demonstrates both her strength and fragility, as we see her panic at being “Called” to help, as her duty as a Guardian dictates, but also see her fiercely protecting those around her, both using her own abilities and those augmented by her position as Guardian. The adventures continue in Burning Water, in which Lackey shows her extensive knowledge of other cultures and religions as Diana is set against an ancient Aztec evil. There are some recurring characters, but the main protagonist is Diana, so that is where the focus of the writing lies. The themes are, as in Children of the Night, still rather dark. The final book of the main series is Jinx High, in which Diana agrees to help an old friend, only to get dragged into a definite battle of wills against an opponent whose strength matches Diana’s own. There are a number of interesting twists and turns throughout the series, though I believe that there were even more in Jinx High than the other books.
I am personally very sad that, according to Ms Lackey, she has no intent to write any further Tregarde books, as the mythos is fascinating to me, and I feel that there was much more to be said following on from Jinx High. Magic 101 is more of a prequel, introducing Diana whilst she was young, and still studying. Whilst I enjoyed this story, I found myself wishing for the longer novels that had preceded it.
I can highly recommend giving the Diana Tregarde series a go if you enjoy paranormal investigators such as Harry Dresden or Joanna Walker. Who knows? Perhaps increased interest might sway Ms Lackey into writing some more of these fascinating urban fantasy novels?
*Direct link to the discussion titled “The Last Straw” has been removed from Ms Lackey’s website, but find it referenced in a feature on her her website, entitled “The Camel’s Back”, also find a brief mention regarding the Tregarde books not selling in the Wikipedia page regarding said series.