My latest review is for a book that has recently started to climb again in sales. Night of the Cossack is the first and current published effort by Tom Blubaugh.
When I first opened the Kindle publication of this book I didn’t know what to expect. The idea of writing about pre-revolution Russia came to Tom, apparently when he discovered that his grandfather had been a Cossack. I kept this in mind as I got to the first page of the first chapter.
The book opens with two brothers, Nathan and Israel Hertzfield, startled awake to find that their village is under attack from the Cossacks. The action packed start doesn’t dim… The action keeps rolling and rolling as the story of Nathan unfolds. Blubaugh has written an efficient and fast paced action adventure story for kids of all ages. The characterization is strong and the reader grows to know Nathan as a character. Nathan is a well developed character who always wants to do the right thing. That said, I think the fact that this book is a fictionalized attempt to create a back-story for his grandfather has made him biased towards the character of Nathan. Is that a bad thing? Perhaps, if you want a character who is multicoloured rather than just black and white.
Blubaugh is a creative writer who without doubt has talent, but sometimes one does find oneself wondering how this book could have been better. I think it could have done with more edge, but then this is a book that will be enjoyed by pre-teens who aren’t in love with the trolls and goblins that seem so popular right now.
What does happen to Nathan and Israel? What do the Cossacks do with them? Where do they end up? Why did the Cossacks attack? All these questions and more spring to mind. The book does ask many questions from the first page… You definitely find yourself turning the page to find out the answers, and I think that is one of this book’s strongest points. It is a page turner and you will want to finish it.
I have interviewed Tom Blubaugh twice (click here and here for those) and I find him to be engaging and honest. He is a deep thinker and that comes across in the book, too. Perhaps he hasn’t written with a plan in mind, but subconsciously he has developed the characters and given them purpose. I found all the characters had purpose and all acted quite realistically, without the wooden behaviour some writers use.
I will give Tom great credit for researching his subject thoroughly. The Cossacks are historically close to fact, the Okhrana, the troubles faced by a young Jewish boy living in an anti-semetic country; this book takes on the facts of the Russia we may have forgotten as history has moved on. The character of Nathan is always the Jewish boy trying to escape and Tom almost turns out his heart on some pages with poignancy and suffering. It is clear to me as a reader that this is the story that he has always wanted to write.
I will say that one thing that really frustrated me was the way Tom ended the book. There are few resolutions and the book leaves you with ‘what ifs,’ ‘what could be’ and ‘what happened?’
It was almost as though Nathan Hertzfield just disappeared from my life…
All in all, this is a pretty good romp through the Russia of the Tsars and it will delight many people around the world as it has already. I also think it is a good first attempt and shows signs of what may come from Tom Blubaugh later.