The August 5

The August 5

by Jenna Helland


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A richly imagined tale of star-crossed love, The August 5 by Jenna Helland is filled with political intrigue, danger, and suspense.

Sixteen-year-old Tommy Shore lives a life of privilege: the finest clothing, food, and education available. He is the son of the chief administrator of Aeren—the most important man on the islands. Fifteen-year-old Tamsin Henry has grown up knowing only poverty, but she is the daughter of a revolutionary who longs to give her and their people more.

Ordinarily, Tommy and Tamsin would never cross paths, but on the day of a violent and deadly revolt, chance brings them together. As the tensions between the government and the rebels escalate, Tommy uncovers a brutal truth about his father. How will he ever get Tamsin to trust that he wants to help when she sees him as the enemy? In the end, Tommy and Tamsin learn that sometimes the honorable thing to do demands the most amount of courage.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250090614
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication date: 11/22/2016
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.71(d)
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About the Author

Jenna Helland is a game designer. She was born in Columbia, Missouri, and worked as a journalist before moving to the Pacific Northwest with her family. The August 5 is her first novel.

Read an Excerpt

The August 5

By Jenna Helland

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2015 Jenna Helland
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-374-38264-3


Tamsin Henry clutched a wooden matchbox that fit neatly into the palm of her hand. The initials M.H. were carved on the bottom, and inside was a single match. The box had rested on the shelf near the woodstove in her family's cottage for as long as Tamsin could remember. In a few hours, her mother would reach for it to light the fire for the morning meal and her fingers would find nothing but dust.

Tamsin shivered inside her tattered coat, her breath visible in the air of the unheated warehouse. Inside her pocket was a scrap of paper with the word candlelight. A tiny cat face had been doodled inside the a so she would know it was truly written by her father, Michael Henry. There was a reddish smear on the back of the paper that looked like a partial bloody fingerprint. Maybe her father had been injured when he wrote it. Or maybe the blood belonged to the messenger who had carried it across the Midmark Sea to Tamsin. By now, the plan had been set in motion and there was no way to find out.

"Please be all right, Papa. Please be safe." She mouthed the words over and over. Perhaps if she said it enough times, her father would be protected from harm. It was the morning of August fifth, and she knew that nothing was going to be the same again.

"When will I die?" Tamsin whispered to the deserted warehouse. She stared at the rough wooden planks and imagined her father's face materializing out of the grainy pattern. "Not today," he assured her. "Today is not the day."

Tamsin gently shook the matchbox, listening to the rattle of the lone match. She was so nervous that she felt ill, but not because she was worried she'd be caught. The soldiers who normally guarded the warehouse had gone back to their barracks up the coast. The day before, a huge shipment of grain had been loaded onto four side-wheel steamers that had set sail for the main island. All that was left of Aeren's harvest was the chaff littered on the warehouse floor. Although the grain had been grown by cottagers such as herself, it was now in the hands of the Zunft government, who had done nothing to earn it.

"I'm scared of fire," Tamsin whispered to the wooden wall. Talking aloud calmed her nerves, but the only response was the scurry of rat feet behind the planks. "And I'm not sure if I can run fast enough."

She reminded herself that it was her father who had sent her to this darkened corner, and she trusted him. Michael Henry had chosen August fifth for a reason, and he was the greatest man she knew. A hero to the cottagers, Michael Henry was a famous journalist who gave fiery speeches on the streets of Sevenna City. Since cottagers weren't allowed to publish newspapers, Tamsin wasn't able to read her father's articles very often. Sometimes the illegal newspapers arrived clandestinely as packing material in shipping crates. Tamsin and her sisters would search through the crumbled pages for their father's byline. Above it would be headlines such as "Zunft Arrest Innocent Man!" "Zunft Factory Fire Kills Fifteen Workers!" "Chamber Votes Down Freedom of the Press!"

It had been five years since Michael Henry had left to work in the capital while his wife and their daughters had remained on Aeren Island. When Tamsin was younger, it felt like her father had deserted his family, but now she understood that he had done it to protect them from the Zunft. She missed him terribly, but he was working for justice in Sevenna City. Her mother, Anna, tried to shield her from politics, but Tamsin refused to be passive and weak. As a cottager, she was destined to a life of blisters from doing someone else's chores. Where there should have been open doors there were really dead ends. The Zunft believed that cottagers were born to obey.

Her father was going to change all of that — today, with her help. Tamsin rattled the match one last time. Then she gently opened the lid, but instead of looking into the box, she lifted her eyes to the stars that she could see through the greasy pane of the window. It was not yet dawn. Somewhere in the darkness — on Aeren and elsewhere — she imagined other cottagers hidden in dark corners, waiting for the first ray of morning light. Their tasks would be much harder than hers. Tamsin took a deep breath and began humming a tune, an old Aeren lullaby that mothers sang to their sleepy children: Alas, the emerald land of our fathers gone / Forlorn the empty hallowed home.

The match was poised to strike, ready to set the world on fire.


It was still dark when Tommy Shore awoke in his bedroom at his family's manor house on the west coast of Aeren. He climbed out of bed and crossed into his sitting room where the fire was already blazing, courtesy of Mrs. Trueblood, the cottager woman who kept house for his family. Shore Manor was a gray stone palatial estate with three wings and substantial gardens and grounds. It was built on a high, rocky peninsula that stretched into the ocean. The rear of the mansion — including Tommy's room — faced the crashing waves and the endless horizon.

Standing in the warmth of the fire, Tommy checked his silver chronometer. It was nearly six a.m., later than he had thought. The sun would rise soon, but outside his bay windows it was still too dark to see any distinction between the dark waves and the black sky. Tommy quickly pulled on his old trousers and a gray sweater that Mrs. Trueblood had knitted for him the year before. He was going to hike all the way to the top of Giant's Ridge, the highest peak on Aeren Island. The summit offered the best view of the world that Tommy had ever found. He could see the ocean to the west, the patchwork of croplands to the east, and beyond to the rich vineyards and orchards of Middle Valley.

When Tommy was seven years old, he'd hiked to the top of Giant's Ridge with his father, Colston Shore. His mother, Rose, had died when he was a small child, and he couldn't remember why his twin brother, Bern, hadn't hiked with them. It was one of his few memories of time spent alone with his father. To Tommy, it had been a perfect day. Together they scrambled up the steep slope that seemed insurmountable, but he hadn't complained once. When they had reached the top, Colston was like a king surveying his domain. He gave his son a rare smile as he pointed out the boundaries of the family's land far in the distance. Tommy felt as though he would explode with happiness — until they reached home. They were in the boot room, pulling off their muddy shoes, when Colston sighed. "A wasted day," he said to himself. "What a wasted day."

Colston Shore was a high-ranking member of the Zunft government, which controlled Seahaven, an island chain in the vast Cobalt Sea. He served in the Zunft Chamber, so he lived in Sevenna City most of the year. Located on Sevenna Island, the city was the capital of Seahaven and the seat of the Zunft government. Colston had arrived back at Shore Manor a few days earlier. The Chamber was not in session, and he planned to stay for several weeks. Tommy hated it when Colston was home. His father was demanding and easily angered, and he had been particularly testy lately. Something had happened in the Chamber right before the session closed, and it had made Colston even more temperamental than usual. A hike to Giant's Ridge was the perfect opportunity for Tommy to avoid his judgmental father.

Now Tommy opened his door and headed into the unlit corridor, but someone was waiting for him. Hands reached out and clamped down on his throat. Tommy yelped in surprise and reeled backward, slamming his shoulder into the door frame. His brother materialized out of the darkness and howled with self-satisfied laughter.

"Bern!" Tommy cried when he saw his twin.

"Hey, T," Bern said. "Where are you going?"

"Out," Tommy muttered. He hated being startled, and Bern knew it. "Giant's Ridge."

"It's one of our last days of summer. These are our last moments of ... dare I say it ... childhood. Why bother with Giant's Ridge?"

"What are you doing up so early?" Tommy hadn't expected to run into Bern. His brother usually slept until noon.

"I haven't been to bed yet," Bern said. Bern knew a group of lads who liked to meet at the Golden Standard pub in Port Kenney to play cards. Tommy had a standing invitation, but never really enjoyed himself when he went. Besides, when the lads played Emperor's Stand, they liked to put actual money on the line. Bern always had spare cash but Tommy didn't. He assumed their father gave extra money to Bern, but left out Tommy, as usual.

"How much did you lose?" Tommy asked as Bern fell in step with him.

"I won, actually," Bern said. He wasn't very good at card games, particularly Emperor's Stand because it required a lot of math.

"Were you playing with yourself?" Tommy asked.

"Hey, watch it," Bern said, shoving his shorter brother with enough force that Tommy slammed into the stone wall.

"Jeez, relax," Tommy mumbled. Now he had two sore shoulders and, apparently, Bern's company. When they were children, the brothers had been inseparable, with little supervision save Mrs. Trueblood. Their father was gone most of the time, in Sevenna, while Tommy and Bern lived at Shore Manor studying with private tutors. But as the brothers entered their teenage years, Bern's bravado and seemingly limitless good fortune began to irritate Tommy, who tried to find ways to avoid his twin. At the end of this summer, the boys would enroll for the first time in Seminary, in Sevenna City, and Tommy wondered if the change would bring them closer once again. Seminary was the institute of higher learning for the sons of the Zunft. At age fourteen, young men enrolled to study either engineering or jurisprudence before being officially accepted into the Zunft Party, which made all the laws and ruled the Islands. Tommy was nervous about starting a new school in Sevenna, but it was the only option. If your father was a Zunftman, you were expected to follow in his footsteps.

As they headed down the wide staircase to the lowest level of the manor, Bern kept prattling on about his adventures the night before. "You know Roger? Well, he was there last night. He was telling me about this club near the waterfront ..."

"There's a club in Port Kenney?" The village consisted of two streets and a handful of businesses clustered around a major Zunft warehouse.

"Are you listening to me?" Bern asked with annoyance. "I'm talking about when we get to Sevenna City."

Tommy hated the idea of living in the capital city of all the islands of Seahaven. Sevenna was crowded and grimy with nothing green except tiny kitchen gardens and a few untouchable Zunft parks. As with many things, the twins had opposite opinions on the matter. Bern viewed the city as his own personal playground.

"Are you going to hike with me?" Tommy asked.

"I don't have anything better to do," Bern said, and sighed. "Maybe next year we can stay in Sevenna over summer holiday."

"I only asked Mrs. Trueblood to pack one lunch," Tommy said.

"So? One of her lunches could feed six of us." Bern snorted.

"Have you seen Mrs. Trueblood?" Tommy asked.

"She's in the kitchen, probably. Isn't that where she always is at this hour?"

After the boys had put on their leather gaiters and heavy walking boots, Tommy picked up his knapsack, which Mrs. Trueblood had laid near the door. Bern was right. She had packed enough lunch for both of them. There were several chicken sandwiches wrapped in brown paper and small jugs of apple cider. Mrs. Trueblood was the only mother Tommy had known since his own mother had died. When he left Aeren for Seminary, Tommy knew he would miss the kind cottager woman most of all.

In the kitchen, Mrs. Trueblood was kneading dough at a long wooden table in the middle of the room. Bunches of dried flowers and herbs hung from the ceiling, and the room smelled like cinnamon and vanilla. A huge fire blazed in the iron woodstove on the west wall.

"Last chance to stay nice and warm," Bern said. "It's almost breakfast time."

"Good morning," Mrs. Trueblood said.

Greta Trueblood was a slender woman in her fifties with graying hair that she kept in a tidy bun at the nape of her neck. She smiled at Tommy, who grinned back. Bern didn't acknowledge her. He didn't like Mrs. Trueblood, which had never made sense to Tommy. Maybe it was because Colston was disdainful toward her, so Bern acted that way, too.

"Good morning, Mrs. Trueblood," Tommy said. "Thank you for the food."

"Where are you hiking today?" she asked.

"Giant's Ridge," Tommy said.

"Well, be safe," said Mrs. Trueblood. "Your father will expect you at dinner."

"Yes, ma'am," Tommy said, already dreading an evening with his father.

"What are we having?" Bern asked.

"Corned beef and cabbage," Mrs. Trueblood said.

"Are there guests?" Tommy asked, ignoring Bern's exaggerated grimace about the menu choice. Bern always acted like he hated Mrs. Trueblood's cooking, but that never stopped him from eating it.

"No, it's only the family," Mrs. Trueblood said.

Tommy said goodbye, and he and Bern left the warmth of the kitchen and took the flagstone path through Mrs. Trueblood's extensive vegetable garden.

"What's wrong with Father anyway?" Tommy asked.

"I don't know, but I could hear him yelling for half the day yesterday," Bern said.

"Maybe his Honor Index is low," Tommy joked.

Bern shrugged. "Father's honor is impeccable — he's reminded us of that a million times."

Tommy glanced at his brother, trying to gauge his emotions. The twins had a running joke about something they called the Honor Index. Colston seemed to measure everything on a cosmic scale that only he could decipher. When they were young, their father's disciplinary talks revolved around which direction they were heading in life. Were they headed up the scale toward being an honorable Zunftman? Or were they sliding down the scale toward ruin and degradation?

The twins had turned it into a secret game. Steal a cookie: lose fifteen points on the Honor Index. Break a vase: lose thirty points. Then Bern made the rule that as long as you didn't get caught, it didn't affect your Honor Index at all. Bern had always enjoyed the game in the past, but it didn't seem to be amusing him now.

"I've been reading the Chronicle," Bern said. "At the end of July, Father's faction tried to oust Chief Administrator Hywel, but their plan failed. The editor-in-chief called Father misguided for challenging Hywel."

"Oh, no wonder he's in a bad mood," Tommy said. The Zunft Chronicle was the official newspaper of the state, and Colston would hate being the object of public criticism. "But I thought that Hywel's power was waning because of his cottager sympathies?"

"Apparently not," Bern scoffed. "Maybe you should pick up a newspaper now and then, Tommy."

Tommy wasn't really interested in reading about politics, but he wasn't going to admit that to Bern. Besides, it was his father who had told him that Hywel was unpopular because he was giving in to the cottagers' demands. Colston was the leader of the Carvers, the most traditional and conservative faction in the Chamber. The small but vocal faction would align with almost anybody to get a majority vote, but they always demanded favors in return. Tommy knew that his father hated the current chief administrator, Toulson Hywel, who had recently passed a substantial subsidy on bread, which made it cheaper for cottagers living in Sevenna to buy their daily allotment.

"Did the Chronicle reopen?" Tommy asked. He'd heard Mrs. Trueblood talking about a protest at the newspaper offices, and how their headquarters had closed down.

"When did it shut down?" Bern said. "I heard that the cottagers attacked the building and damaged it, but the presses were running by the next day."

They left the garden through the little gate and followed the gravel walkway to the front of the manor where a high-wheeled carriage was parked in the circular driveway. Ever since the Zunft had released its new model of rovers, Colston had stopped using horse-drawn carriages, so this must belong to one of his allies from the Zunft Chamber. It was common for members of the Carver faction to spend part of their vacation at Shore Manor. They were usually locked away with Colston in the library as if they were planning a war. As the boys passed the carriage, Tommy noticed the dull outline of a missing Zunft emblem on the polished exterior of the carriage door. High-ranking Zunftmen were required to display the Zunft emblem when they traveled, but this one had been removed. Someone had unhitched the horses and taken them to the stables, meaning Colston and whoever this guest was had probably been in a meeting all night.


Excerpted from The August 5 by Jenna Helland. Copyright © 2015 Jenna Helland. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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