Shadow Unit 3: Refining Fire is more of a proper novel. At the start there is the usual short stories, most involving Solomon Todd/Duke which helps to build a bit more on his mysterious character and make him seem more like a core member of the team. The important part of this was the main story which was all about Chaz. Chaz is probably a rather popular character, at least to the authors of the book, given everything that he has gone through in his short life – in this book he is 25 years old.
Refining Fire focuses not only on Chaz, but also his family. The family he doesn’t know because his mother left home when she finished high school, and the family who he works with, who are searching for him when he doesn’t come into work after a long weekend. The mystery the surrounds Chaz isn’t as annoying as Solomon Todd, Chaz isn’t open about his past, but people do know that he was in foster care, they do know he’s an orphan and they learned that his grandparents were alive until he got information about a will, in which a farm house was left to him – this was in the last book of Shadow Unit. The novel works really well, we see how Chaz thinks, how he copes through the stress of being a captive, how his skills as a profiler helps him and also we learn from the team exactly what his family were like before he was even born. Scenes of Reyes, who knows more about Chaz than the rest of the team; who kept that knowledge to himself, and seeing the consequences of his actions is also interesting. Reyes is seen as a dependable, yet cold, character, he’s focused on the job, he wants to make sure there are no more victims but he also wants the gamma’s to be studied, so he wants them alive. This time he’s in conflict with his second and I do wish there was more time to see how Reyes thinks and why he does what he does in regards to this.
The main story is a good enough reason to read this book, provided you have read the past two books, since you do need to know these characters a bit more to understand why they are as they are. The negative point is the short stories that involve the LiveJournals – need to mention that this book was written to be based in 2007, so LiveJournal was still a thing – there was too many of them. Added in to give a story a bit more bite and detail is fine, but there was pages of these LiveJournal entries and it was just getting annoying.
I would say read the short stories, avoid the LiveJournal parts and enjoy the novel, it’s an excellent read.