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Book Review: The Retreat by Louis Saunders

The Retreat by Louis Saunders

In a world controlled by lies, how far would you go to uncover the truth?

The Commander, despotic ruler of the Bunker, claims the Earth’s barren surface remains deadly due to Disease X. But cynical teen Jasper Huxley thinks otherwise.

Having been rejected from the Scouts, an elite team who scavenge for resources on the Earth’s surface, Jasper gets lured into a conspiracy group. An assortment of disillusioned old men, they argue that Disease X is a hoax designed to keep them trapped underground. Enthralled by the conspiracy and desperate to impress his crush Hattie Osborne, Jasper masterminds a plot to break out of the Bunker.

Meanwhile, Jasper’s friend Marcus, sees his hopes of getting back with Hattie – his ex-girlfriend –scuppered when he gains entry into the Scouts. Cut off from the others during his first surface mission, Marcus gets caught in the crosshairs of Dani Dalton PM, the enigmatic leader of a guerilla group bent on toppling the Commander’s regime.

As both Jasper and Marcus are set against the Bunker, the two get a glimpse of the Commander’s true colours. However, when the conflict between Dani and the Bunker heats up, our two young heroes must also confront demons of their own – not least their bitter, unspoken rivalry over Hattie Osborne, which threatens to jeapordise her peaceful, below-ground existence.

Published when the author was just 22, Saunders’ debut novel fuses a thrilling political drama together with an upsetting account of teenage inadequacy and unrequited love. Reader discretion is advised.

The Retreat Review

I was compensated with a small amount for my time and effort in reading the book and writing this review. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own and are based on my honest personal experience reading the book. Nor did the publisher in any way shape or form ever pressure me to give a positive review.

Louis Saunders’s compelling dystopian novel The Retreat is set in a future where fear and deceit rule. Adolescent Jasper Huxley opposes the Commander’s absolute authority, arguing that Disease X has not yet been eradicated from Earth. Jasper joins a conspiracy organization that believes Disease X is a fabrication, rejecting his rejection from the elite Scouts who search the surface for materials. Motivated by his wish to win over Hattie Osborne, his crush, Jasper plans a risky breakout from the bunker beneath the ground.

The writing style is characterized by its rapid pace, evident through frequent jumps forward marked by asterisks. This brisk pacing, coupled with the use of shorter chapters, creates a sense of urgency that compels the reader forward, almost as if they’re rushing alongside the narrative. The tone of the writing feels youthful and energetic, contributing to the overall dynamism of the story. However, despite these strengths, there’s a notable challenge in distinguishing between the narrations of Marcus and Noah. Their points of view often blend together, lacking distinctiveness in tone. This lack of differentiation occasionally leads to confusion, as shifts in perspective are not always immediately apparent. Clarifying and enhancing the distinct voices of Marcus and Noah could help mitigate this issue and further enrich the reader’s experience of the narrative.

Despite my initial hesitations due to the overwhelming prevalence of dystopian and pandemic themes in real life, The Retreat proved to be a breath of fresh air. The incorporation of coming-of-age themes within the dystopian framework offered a surprisingly wholesome reading experience. While I typically try to avoid such narratives given the state of the world, this novel struck a delicate balance between entertainment and thoughtfulness. Its engaging narrative kept me thoroughly entertained while also delivering the thrilling tension characteristic of dystopian societies. The Retreat managed to captivate me with its unique approach, providing a much-needed escape without sacrificing depth or relevance.

My overall opinion of the book was mostly lukewarm, even though there weren’t any obvious problems that jumped out to me. Even though the book didn’t have any significant problems, I had trouble staying interested in it the whole time. It lacked the “it” element or a special spark that kept people turning the pages. The main group of individuals definitely piqued my interest, especially their individual journeys, but the overall plot fell flat for me. But the character development in the book is where it really excels. The depth and complexity of the characters, their struggles, and their growth throughout the narrative are undoubtedly the book’s strongest aspects. Despite my reservations about the plot’s ability to captivate, the richly drawn characters kept me invested in their individual arcs and interactions.

The Retreat delivers a distinctive fusion of coming-of-age themes and dystopian intrigue, offering depth and enjoyment. The quick pacing and upbeat tone can entice readers at first, but some might be turned off by the bland writing style and general feel. The novel’s strength, meanwhile, is found in the vivid character depictions that give the story nuance and complexity. For those looking for a new perspective on the dystopian genre, The Retreat can be a great book despite its flaws, especially for those who are interested in complex character development and interpersonal relationships.

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About the Author of The Retreat


Louis Saunders, a London-based author, writes stories which revolve around deeply authentic and true-to-life characters. Praised for his clear and refreshingly candid style, Saunders’ debut novel, THE RETREAT, takes place in a post-pandemic world. It offers a renewed perspective on the idea of teenagers trying to overthrow a dystopian government. Louis is equally passionate about contemporary fiction that explores the messiness of relationships and current issues in today’s society, particularly those affecting younger generations.

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