Brightblade

The Morgan Detective Agency, Book 1
Narrated by: Heather Costa
Series: The Morgan Detective Agency, Book 1
Length: 6 hrs and 27 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (38 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Psychic. Superhero. Spy. Detective. Bounty hunter. Ashley Morgan has been many things and failed at all of them. The 28-year old has her whole life ahead of her but has already resigned herself to working a dead-end job bringing in the debt-ridden supernatural criminals of New Detroit. 

A chance encounter with the vampire sheriff reveals a secret that motivates her to change her life forever: Her long-missing brother Arthur is alive (in a manner of speaking).

Ashley sets out on a quest to not only find him but also deal with old lovers, treacherous criminals, a magic sword, and a quest to raise an ancient vampire from the dead.

Brightblade is set in the same world as the Red Room series, The Bright Falls Mysteries, and Straight Outta Fangton.

©2019 Charles Phipps; Michael Suttkus (P)2019 David N. Wilson

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A great new entry into a wider universe.


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.

PLOT SUMMARY

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.

NARRATION

Narration duties are handled well by Heather Costa. She really brings the characters to life using various tones, accents and cadence. Her narrative pacing is spot on, and she really gets you hooked as she goes.

FINAL THOUGHTS

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.

4 people found this helpful

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Fantastic book

I haven’t enjoyed a book some much in ages! This book had me laughing at loud at times. The jokes and sarcasm are spot on. The narrator is great and made the book even better.

I received a copy of this book in return for my honest opinion which I have given.

3 people found this helpful

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Great Storytelling

I loved the story, and it is a nice expansion to an existing world. Loved the story and narration.

2 people found this helpful

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Another Great Entry Into This Universe

4.25 out of 5 stars

Every time I think I have the worlds of C.T. Phipps figured out - he's able to throw and entire new book into that world and surprise me. Brightblade was a new entry into the same universe as the The Bright Falls Mysteries and Straight Outta Fangton - so the setting is semi-familiar.  Some of the characters cross-over. It has that comfort of a familiar universe, but seeing it from a different perspective.  Like re-visiting your home town after you've moved away.  You see the grit and the good.

The character development of Ashley Morgan was obviously the star of this audiobook.  Suttkus and Phipps are able to create such interesting and easy-to-root-for characters in their worlds.  Ashley was no different.  She was different and a little bit rough to start, and as the story progresses you start to like her more and more.  She does things that feel correct for her character while also moving the story along.  She wasn't as witty or smart-alecky as the other characters I'm used to reading from these authors - but that's not to say that that book didn't have its comedic moments.  There were just less of them in Brightblade than in other entries in this universe.

There were two specific parts that really stood out to me where the comedy shines through.  One was a moment where they were talking about Jane Doe (and they were talking about what he name was and that she was a Weredeer).  The laughter and jokes there were just right and exactly how someone who didn't know Jane would react.  The other was in the description of a specific way that certain female characters are portrayed on Fantasy (especially Urban Fantasy) novels. I got a good chuckle out of that one.

Obviously, as I just stated above - character development is where these authors shine.  The action is nothing to laugh at either.  They are able to write short and succinct action scenes that feel like they last as long as they should.  There's no drawn out shoot outs, magic displays, and other fantasy elements.  It's right to the point while still being entertaining.

Overall, I thought that Brightblade was a great entry into this universe and an interesting story to listen to.  The audiobook absolutely flew by due to the great narration of Heather Costa.  I just felt like she took me right into that world and wouldn't let me go until the book ended. A great performance.

So, since this is touted as a series - I'm sure there will be more entries in it.  I'm intrigued to see where Suttkus and Phipps take Ashley Morgan in the upcoming books. I'm also intrigued to see where and when the other characters are going to show up.

2 people found this helpful

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Another winner from this author duo!

Another winner from this author duo! Ashley Morgan is a fun character to guide us through this urban fantasy. As a bounty hunter, she’s well aware of the rules and chooses which ones to bend or break. I love her can-do attitude. The support cast provides plenty of opportunity for humor and snark.

What starts off as a pretty simple bounty with her team mates (Jack and some goofy newbie), quickly turns into a potentially deadly situation. But in swoops unexpected assistance and Ashley is reunited with an old coworker, Alex Timons. I really liked Alex from the Weredeer books so it’s good to see him here and getting more of the spotlight.

The conundrums pile up as Ashley is saved by vampire blood, making her a dhampir (which she really doesn’t want to be) and her long lost brother Arthur pops back into her life, as a vampire! Ashley used to hunt vampires and now she’s allied with them! Argh! Such a tough situation for her. But she has little time to be mad as there’s a possessed talking sword that demands her attention. Haha!

I really enjoyed this sword. The trapped angel had some of the best lines of the story. And it’s own goals. Ashley has so much on her plate in this story. Her struggle with what exactly is good or evil is sometimes hindered by the angel-possessed sword.

There’s a vampire character, perhaps Sam, from 100 Miles and Vampin’, who provided an often amusing and sometimes scary viewpoint to current events. She’s an old vampire, having become one herself in an age where human slavery was common. Becoming a vampire was a step up for her; even though she had several obligations to her maker, she had more freedoms than she did as a slave. Ashley, former vampire hunter, had to reassess her view on vampires in general & Sam provided plenty of food for thought.

All around, it was a lot of fun. The tale has excellent balance with humor, action, philosophical debates on good and evil, snark, pop culture references, and complicated relationships. You can enjoy this book with other Phipps & Suttkus tales or as a standalone. 5/5 stars.

The Narration: Heather Costa was perfect as Ashley. I love her practical, straight forward voice. She captures Ashley’s snark and harder nature quite well. I also like her range of character voices for the supporting cast. Her male voices were masculine and all characters were easily distinguishable. There were no technical issues with this recording. 5/5 stars.

I received a free copy of this audiobook. All opinions are 100% my own.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

an epic fantasy tale

very good book entertaining and well narrated and excellent read as well. Thank you

1 person found this helpful

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puntastic

This book was written for those of us who are total nerds. Enough pop culture references to make a geek heart happy. From Dr. Who to LOTR. The story is fast paced and leaves you wanting more. Is there really an end? It does suggest more to come. Brightblade will brighten you day. listen and enjoy .

1 person found this helpful

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Wonderful Urban Fantasy to be devoured

I loved the Brightblade world. The story opened with action and wove the world building as it went along. There were twists and unexpected angles that kept me engaged and listening. As I listened I could easily envision Brightblade as being broken into several episodes of a binge worthy television series. Brightblade brought a new author to me. I will definitely be searching out more from this author. Heather Costa did wonderful voicing the characters. This is the first in a series according to the title. I certainly hope to see more from this series.

1 person found this helpful

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Brightblade is a shining exemplar of the genre

See what I did there? Anyway. I liked Brightblade a lot… or more accurately, I liked Ashley Morgan, the snarky, sassy, superpowered anti-heroic protagonist of Brightblade. Usually, I’d try to summarize the plot in a review, but unlike some other books that use their characters as a way to push the narrative forward, Brightblade is all about the characters. That means the real joy in reading it is all in the interactions, character building, and dialog. There is a story there, and it's a decent one... but you’ll read the book for the characters in it. So the plot? What’s the book about? It’s about Ashley Morgan. And the one hell of a night she just survived. Well, that she mostly survived anyway.

I’m usually not into urban fantasy, but Brightblade reads more like a vampire story. But not a dark, victorian-style vampire story or a teenage romantic gag-inducing vampire story. Instead, it’s an entertaining, irreverent, gothic-punk vampire story where the masquerade is dropped, and the vampires are all out doing their vampire thing. It’s got lots of vampire family politics, vampire lore, vampire strippers, and everything else you could want in a vampire story. From what I understand, it’s set in the same world as the other books in The United States of Monsters series, and now I want to read them all. Damn it, maybe I do like urban fantasy after all.

Overall, Brightblade is a lighthearted story with some darker subtext. It’s humorous and fun with its tone and pop culture references, but like most of Phipps’s work, it’s also intelligent in its use of social commentary and the development of alternate world cultural dynamics. I appreciate these deeper elements built into the world that Phipps and Suttkus have created.

As for the audio version of the book: I’ve never heard any of Heather Costa’s performances before, but I think she did a great job with Brightblade. Her character voices fit the narrative's tone and various situations within the book. All the female characters had unique, distinct voices -- which is an accomplishment, as there was quite a large cast of female characters. However, the male voices didn’t have the same variety and were a bit more challenging to differentiate. It’s a minor critique, though, as it didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book or the narration.

Special thanks to C.T. Phipps, who provided me with this book at my request.

1 person found this helpful

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Tying It All Together!

C.T. Phipps and Michael Suttkus have written many novels in seemingly different worlds, but Brightblade (Morgan Detective Agency Book 1) ties it almost all of them together without question. The Red Room Files (solely Phipps), Fangton series, the Bright Falls Mysteries series and now the Morgan Detective Agency series all take place in the same world at (relatively speaking) the same time (United States of Monsters). I won’t get into how this group relates to the Wraith Knight, Agent G, Cthulhu Amageddon series, or even the exploits of a starfaring viscount. All of that info can be found on Phipps blog; United Federation of Charles.
But, Brightblade feeds the connections to you that connect all the dots and a full history lesson of the world, feeding you in firehose-to-the-mouth fashion. The funny part is, you don’t feel too overwhelmed by it as it flows like it was meant to. I believe that this is the way the two tried to catch everyone up on the world instead of having to read all the other books first. Getting the lay of the land is important in a shared universe. A daunting task to be sure! We hear about and journey with characters from the other books and know how much has gone on before, but readers new to the United States of Monsters might have trouble gaining so much information this way.
This is unexpected and slightly out of style for our dynamic-duo of writers… a departure from the usual where this information is delivered through fun and games and most importantly, nearly transparently. For us readers who have been looking for a timeline or chronological reading order based on the events that have occurred in this shared world, Suttkus and Phipps put in some overtime. I believe that there were some things that could have waited until the second book in this series to spill, but once the flow starts and you get used to it, a few more facts about the world doesn’t hurt. The only reason I mention this is because someone else will and throw a hissy fit.
Now, the cool part! Some of the combat sequences, behind the scenes actions and the aftermath of both are considered in amazing details. The combat quickly flowed in the same way it would in a Role Playing Game where players make bad rolls, do the wrong things and just barely managed to survive. OK, it was much more streamlined than some of those old games. It reminded me of so many very exciting games I played in my youth. I had a very geeky smile on my face through it all.
Some of the characters in the book, could barely stand at the end of the combat, but with healing magic they are back in action by the next scene with no ill effects. I have a feeling that there will be a price to pay later on and our heroes are going to pay dearly when they least expect it. (no, this is not advanced knowledge) I know in my gaming experiences, we ALWAYS ran out of healing and went into combat horribly disadvantaged. It made our victories that much more sweet. This was something I was looking forward to seeing in Brightblade.
The introduction of a telepathically talking blade that the narrator, Heather Costa made so amusing and irritating at the same time, was a high point for me. I would agree that the revelation of its powers could have been put off until the next book and the banter I was hoping for just between Ashely and it would be kept private for a while. But, when you throw in telepathic vampires, wizards and bloodsworn that all seem to have telepathy (that just barge in on anyone’s mind) got a little confusing at times as I tried to remember who could and who could not join in on this telepathic communication. Still, the typical humor associated with the Suttkus/Phipps team came through and it made me feel right at home in a quirky-snark-ridden landscape.
Did the book stand on its own? After taking some time of stand back from my ready adoration of Heather Costa and the Suttkus/Phipps team, I’d have to give a begrudging ‘yes’ to that. I had to go back and look at some old Mike Hammer-style books to see how they gave out tons of information. As I suspected, they too used this fire-hose-feed method as well if it had any reliance on a previous book/story. So, keeping with the concept of a detective story (albeit set in a highly unfamiliar world), they did their very difficult job and stayed in that style. It may have been something that other writers would have run away from screaming in terror. Truly, an impressive feat gentlemen.
Making Ashley Morgan sound tough-as-nails detective/bounty hunter seemed to come easy for Heather Costa. There were some confusing times when Ashley wavered in character and was sorely tempted to fall into a ‘dame to be rescued,’ but Heather Costa kept her strong and never whining as she should be. I almost felt Costa was more in tune with the character than I was. Thank goodness!
While there were times that could have been confusing as to what was going on (especially in circumstances that were purposefully confusing), Heather came through like a polished trooper and executed the acting demands in her usual finesse’ that not many can match. No, I’m not a huge fan of Heather at all. I have to wonder if she spent 30+ hours listening to all the other stories to hear how the other actors (Cary Hite, Jeffrey Kafer, Arielle DeLisle) delivered the characters that appeared in this episode of the United States of Monsters. She grabbed the nuances of each and made them compatible with the other renditions of each character. She could switch from the softness of one of the female characters to the hard-edged virility of some of the male parts. Nothing really slowed her down. Many narrators struggle to switch so seamlessly. Simply amazing performance! Thank you Heather!
I am forced to admit that this was not their best collaboration effort. I’m also not sure I can say it felt rushed. There were times that I wanted them to go into more detail of the aftermath of a situation and we jumped to the next scene. But, that’s OK. If it doesn’t reinforce the story or tell more of what needs to be told, many scenes end up on the ‘cutting room floor.’ It’s times like this that I wonder if there are some cut scenes that would make for some very interesting reading. Better yet, we might see some of these scenes in the next ‘issue’ as either a flashback or another opportunity to glimpse into the minds of the heroes (not sure I can really use that word for this group, but it’s as close as I can come).
Overall, I was tempted to lower my 5 star rating to a 3 due to the fire-hose feeding effect and the introduction of the overly powerful sword and the wish it would keep going on and not end yet... but between the excitement to see the next in the series or how the Morgan Detective Agency is going to blend in with the Brightfalls Mysteries et al, and Heather Costa’s incredible challenging performance, I think that ratings above 5 in other areas even it out well. I can’t wait for the next in the series!

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  • J Smith
  • 02-20-20

“Judge not lest ye something something”

Charles Phipps never fails to satisfy and he does more of his never failing here!
I felt it falls somewhere between the ridiculousness and fast-pacing of his Supervilliany books and the slower, soap opera of his Lucifer’s Star series.
Really enjoyable, plenty of action and a whole load of magic and vampirey type stuff to get your teeth into (see what I did there!?).
Well narrated by Heather too.
This is my honest opinion of a free review copy.

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  • Curly's Ramblings
  • 12-09-19

Interesting

Entertaining story and interesting characters. Sound plot and storyline. The narrator did a good job. I received a free copy of this audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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  • Jeff
  • 12-04-19

C t phipps just gotta have more

J P morgan yeah how did you come up with that one. this book is a trip and lots of querks not twerks all the way through although twerking may have made it even better.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 03-21-20

Phenomenal new series!

Although this is part of Phipps' United States of Monsters books, you don't need to have read any to get stuck into this.
To avoid spoilers, I won't go into plot details, but, as a fan of Urban Fantasy books, this was a rare gem. The pacing was solid, I genuinely didn't see the twists coming, and the characters were really well fleshed out.
The narrator was also quite good, and fit the story perfectly.
I would absolutely recommend giving this a try if you like Urban Fantasy books. You won't be disappointed.