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Night of the Cossack by Tom Blubaugh


Night of the Cossack
Tom Blubaugh
Bound by Faith Publishers
Date:  2011
256 pages
ISBN-10: 0982902921
Lexile : 480L based on a small text sample

Book Overview:

Night of the Cossack is the story of Nathan Hertzfield, a Jewish teenager forcibly taken from his home and his family by a Cossack named Nikolai during a raid on his village. Nathan’s dangerous journey to freedom is made harder because he must hide his Jewish identity.

The story begins in the town of Gagra, a town in Abkhazia, Georgia at the base of the Caucasus Mountains on the shore of the Black Sea. Set in the early 1900’s, the story takes the reader from the Cossack community on the Don River to Romania, Italy, and France.

The author was inspired by the true story of his own grandfather to write this historical fiction novel. and he plans a sequel to this novel.

Positive Content:

Nathan, the main character, presents a positive role model of a young man trying to make the right choices in a completely alien world and culture. From the first chapter, Nathan’s choices are driven by his need to protect his widowed mother and his younger brother.

As the years pass, Nathan learns many valuable lessons from Nikolai, his Cossack captor turned mentor. He must also overcome betrayal and heartbreak.

Mr. Blubaugh does a fine job of letting the reader see the landscape of Russia and the other countries that provide the setting of the book.

Content to Consider: (Spoilers)


  • The Cossacks raid Nathan’s home village. Several people, including at least one woman, are killed.
  • Several homes and other buildings are torched.
  • Nathan is abducted at gunpoint.
  • One of the other Cossack recruits is beaten for disobedience.
  • Guns are mentioned frequently throughout the book since the Cossacks are a military organization.
  • The Commander of Nathan’s group is wounded by a sniper and another man is shot in the head.
  • During the ambush, Nathan’s friend is wounded, and Nathan kills a man in self-defense.
  • After the workers strikes began in Russia, the Cossacks (Nathan included) are drafted, under threat of death, to be a part of the Russian Army.
  • Much to Nathan’s horror, the Cossacks are assigned to carry out the pogrom of the tsar against the Jews living in Odessa.
  • Nathan suffers a gunshot wound.
  • The Okhrana, the secret police of Russia, pursue Nathan. It is said that they torture their captives.
  • Nathan forces a man to tell the truth at knife point.
  • A man punches Nathan in the face.

Crude, Vulgar, or Profane Language: MILD

  • A man yells at Nathan, calling him a “little Jew” and a fool.

Sexual Content: MILD

  • Nathan’s friend tries to persuade him to party with the village girls. He implies that the girls are willing to do much more than dance.
  • Nathan’s friend later indicates that he has several “lady friends.”
  • Nathan exchanges kisses with the girl he loves, but their physical relationship stops there.
  • A friend aboard ship makes no secret that he loves the ladies; he’s a typical sailor with a girl in every port.

Drug/Alcohol: RARE

  • The only drug abuse mentioned is for faking illness to avoid the draft.
  • Before leaving port, the crew of Nathan’s ship goes to a bar. Some men get drunk.

Negative Content: NONE


Spiritual Content:

  • Nathan is a Jew. His Cossack “father” tells him that he must hide this fact. Nikolai gives him a different name, Stepan Ivanov, and a different religion, Russian Orthodox Christian. Many times, Nathan has to ignore Jewish dietary restrictions.
  • Many times, Nathan’s thoughts turn to God as the source of his continued safety.
  • At the very end of the book, the ship’s captain mentions Jesus to Nathan.

My Personal Opinions:

One of the most surprising and compelling aspects of this story is that Nathan has to readjust his ideas of who is and who isn’t a friend. His transformation from a scared teenager into a man who is ready to make difficult choices is also compelling.

Perhaps as interesting as Nathan’s story, is the account of the Jewish underground that existed in Europe to help refugees escape from persecution. This story is rare, too, because it is told from the Cossack and Russian perspectives in the time period just prior to World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.

This survival story is perfect for the male teen reader, but girls will also appreciate Nathan’s adventures. The lower Lexile score makes it accessible to struggling readers.

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About the Author

Kathrese McKee started life as a Systems Engineer at EDS, spent time in real estate, taught middle grade Reading and ESL in Texas, and settled down to blog and write speculative fiction for Young Adults.

As a teacher, she fell in love with books written for Teens and Young Adults. Her favorite books are “coming of age” stories about young people on the difficult road of self-discovery.


  1. Thank you so much for this in depth review of my novel. I appreciate it very much.


    Tom Blubaugh, Author
    Night of the Cossack
    Tom Blubaugh recently posted..In Her Own WordsMy Profile

    • You’re so welcome. I am always on the hunt for books that will appeal to teen boys AND provide valuable insights into the world we live in today.


  1. […] Goal 3 – Post to on Wednesday. (Book Report – Night of the Cossack by Tom Blubaugh) […]

  2. […] has been a writer his entire life, but now he’s a fiction writer. Tom’s novel, Night of the Cossack, provides a fascinating glimpse into a little-known piece of history. His book is a direct result […]

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