Tuesday, October 8, 2019
The Bookwyrms Review of Brightblade by Michael Suttkus and C.T. Phipps
Author: Michael Suttkus & C.T. Phipps
Release Date: TBA
Publisher: Crossroad Press
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: The Morgan Detective Agency, Book 1
I have been a huge fan of the various books C.T. Phipps and Michael Suttkus have co-written. When I heard that Michael would be taking lead on a new series set in the United States of Monsters universe, I was ecstatic, and happily took an offered review copy. I can happily say that not only does it fit into the universe, but charts in own course, adding new layers to what they have been creating in other books in the universe.
Ashley Morgan is a bounty hunter working with her partners at a bail bonds in New Detroit, which is where the vampires made their base of power after they came out into the open when they bailed out the government in the economic crash of 2008. With the vampires and other supernaturals gaining legal status, the Red Room, who policed the hidden supernatural world, find themselves out of a job. This leaves people like Morgan's family suddenly without support and at loose ends. In Morgan's case, she took her status as a Bright, which means she has mental abilities, and tried to become a costumed superhero. Having telekinesis and being an empath apparently weren't enough to get the job done, so she quit that.
Morgan's firm specializes by bailing out supernaturals. Unfortunately, when they skip bail, it means vanilla humans cant go get them. Its up to Morgan and her team to bring them back and collect. After the capture of a bail jumper goes sideways, the vampire sheriff shows up to take him into custody, in exchange for information about where Ashley's missing brother is. Planning on following up, Ashley has to take an artifact they were paid for a job to the supernatural's bank for deposit. Unfortunately, that's the exact moment three supernatural's decide to rob the bank for another artifact. This leads to a battle between Ashley and the three robbers, who manage to get away, with Ashley being injured.
Ashley wakes up in a strange room, feeling unusual. It turns out that she's at her brother's apartment over the club he owns. She also discovers that she almost died, and had to be saved with vampire blood from her brother, who is now a vampire, thus making her a dhampir. This is awful news to Ashley, who was raised to hate vampires. Ashley finds out the reason for the bank robbery, which was to get an artifact that can raise a dead vampire lord, who can use the wand to turn vampires human again, something the vampires will do anything to avoid. This leads Ashley and her brothers group into conflict with a powerful vampire family bent of gaining power, who will stop at nothing to gain it. It doesn't help that one of the main conspirators is one of Ashley's ex's, who apparently was even worse than she seemed. Ashley and crew must stop them before they bring about the end of the vampire nation, all while keeping Ashley from turning full vamp herself. Ashley needs all her abilities, both old and new, to survive until the end, with a lot of twists and turns along the way.
CHARACTERS AND WORLD BUILDING
Like anything having to do with Michael Suttkus and C.T. Phipps, characters are what drive the story. Ashley is such a well written character, strong, determined and vulnerable by turns. She has deep prejudices ingrained in her by growing up in the Red Room environment, but struggles to be honest and fair. Her hatred of vampires is so at odds with what her brother has become, and it's that conflict that helps driver her actions. Her bonding a mystical weapon also creates some funny moments, as she now has a rather loud "conscience" pushing her to do the right things. The other characters are also so much fun. From Arthur, Ashley's vampire brother, to Alex, her wizard ex, the secondary characters get so much care and development. they get fully fleshed out. The villain of the story actually has very little face time in the book, so doesn't get as much first hand attention, but is discussed at length throughout the book.
The world building is definitely sold. It expands upon the world created in Straight Outta Fangton, Esoterrorism and I Was a Teenage Weredeer. The fall of the Red Room is explained more in this one than the others, with some more of the ancillary work done there explained. New Detroit is expanded on past where its been shown before, really giving a look into the various territories the city is split into. It is definitely an expanded world ripe for future stories.
Any time you spin off a series with new characters, it has a chance of failing. Luckily, they took what worked with the other books in this universe, namely excellent characters, snappy dialogue and a fast paced plot and created a great addition to the universe. If you like any other books by these authors, you'll like this one. I think it has a lot of appeal for any fans of urban fantasy, and has lots of potential places to go.