Book Review: Burning Water by Mercedes LAckey

Nearly 2 decades before urban fantasy books hit the shelves author Mercedes Lackey gave us Diane Tregarde, a witch and a Guardian who protected those who asked for her help from dangers of the paranormal kind.

Unfortunately, bookstores and publishers weren’t quite sure what to make of this new character, some placing the books in the horror section, some in the fantasy section, and some not carrying them at all. After 3 books Lackey gave up on Diane and began focusing on other writing.

I could happily read all of the Diane Tregarde stories over and over again, and indeed I have. Yes, I know what is coming but I welcome each chapter like a long and loved friend.

The main character, Diane has core beliefs as a witch, a no-nonsense approach to magic, that I admire and gladly would model myself on. Yes, when I am an elderly crone I want to be like Granny Weatherwax, but as a young witchling I wanted to be like Diane.

Diane is a young woman who grew up in the 60s and 70s, and while we are never given her actual age, we know that she went to university in Boston, Mass in the early 1970s, pre-Nixon and Watergate. She has studied dance and martial arts, is slim with long brown hair and barely stands 5 feet tall. When not facing down paranormal dangers as a Guardian she earns a living writing romance novels under various nom de plumes.

As a Guardian, she is obligated to protect anyone who asks for her help from those paranormal dangers, whether it be a ghost, ghoul or demon, or an Otherworldly creature from the Nether realms. When she is doing the work of a Guardian she is able to pull in and use extra powers granted to her. Of course, being a Guardian also means that she can be a shining beacon in a dark room for those same creatures. You don’t retire from being a Guardian, and the life expectancy is not always all that long.

Burning Water was the first full-length story published, though if you want to follow the stories chronologically I suggest starting with Children of the Night. There are also several short stories published in MZB’s fantasy magazine and a prequel published in 2014, Magic 101, which gives us 2 novella length stories about Diane during her university days and also introduces us to many of the people she later works, her Spook Squad.

Diane Tregarde is the sort of common sense, kick ass woman and witch that I like. She’s confident and can hold her own in nearly any situation. She also takes her role as a Guardian and as a witch with just the right amount of seriousness.

Burning Water takes place in Dallas, Texas in the mid-1980s. Over the previous several months there have been a string of unusual, ritualised murders. Over the past year things have progressed from cattle mutilations to human murders and police detective Mark Valdiz has called in his old university friend, Diane Tregarde as a consultant because something doesn’t quite seem right.

As he tells her, things have been feeling weird in the Dallas area for a couple months when she arrives. They’ve had an increase in violence in mental institutions, an increase in the number of cultists, an increase in psychiatric admissions, and perhaps even more telling a mass exodus of certain groups of people from the area – the Romany, psychics, and others. Those with Aztec ancestry are hearing a call to join an ancient horror that they are finding it impossible to resist.

As Diane and Mark work to find the person or persons committing these murders, they discover that a force bigger than anything they could have imagined is at work and if they do not stop it in time, an ancient Aztec God will once again walk the lands.

Merceded Lackey combine fiction with tales of myth and legen from cultures around the world in these Diane Tregarde books. Ameria has its own native spirits, but as people have moved and emigrated from across the world they have also brought their Gods and also their demons, elves, shapeshifters, and other creatures. This world is the same world in which the elves of her Serrated Edge series reside, and we are given a brief glimpse of that overlap in another Tregarde book, Jinx High. These two sides of the same world also merge more fully in another book geared more towards young adults, co-written with Rosemary Edghill in 2011, called Arcanum 101.

I lke this book because Lackey has obviously done her home work. It is entirely a work of fiction, but she has drawn heavily from the history of the Aztec culture and from the Quetzalcoatl/Tezcatlipoca mythic cycles.

If you like urban fantasy, but can do without the high school angst, helpless women, and sparkly undead, then Burning Water may be just what you are looking for.

All of the Diane Tregarde books and short stories can now be found in ebook form.

 

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