In The Baron's Apprenticeship, we again meet Thomas Wingfold, the former curate of Glaston. It is now twelve years after the end of The Lady's Confession, and Thomas, Helen, and their young child are living and serving in a parish not too far from London. While not as prominent in this book as they were in the first two, they still play a quiet yet important role as spiritual mentors to others as Polwarth was once to them.
The story centers around a young man called Richard Tuke. He has grown up near London learning bookbinding from his father. Growing up, Richard came to reject the form of God that his mother seemed to believe in-- a harsh, uncaring God whose goal must be to make men miserable. Instead, he tries to find answers in books, reason, and science. When he is around eighteen years of age, he is hired by the son of the baron of Mortgrange to repair old books in the libary, unwittingly finding himself uncovering the shrouded mysteries of his past-- which could change his life forever!
While at Mortgrange, Richard meets a sweet young lady named Barbara, called by editor Michael Phillips "one of MacDonald's strongest fictional women." Barbara grew up in a difficult family situation in the colony of New Zealand. Now back in England, she spends her days tearing across the countryside on her horse, Miss Brown, or talking with Richard as he works in the library. The death of a pigeon prompts her to search for God and for truth, as she is not able to believe Richard's statements about "no life beyond death". In her honest, open nature, she challenges Richard with the question, "Tell me honestly... are you sure there is no God? Have you gone through all the universe looking for Him and failed to find him? Is there no possible chance that there may be a God?" Her budding friendship with the Wingfolds continues to foster her growing faith and her simple love for truth and life.
Richard's incredible journey to both spiritual understanding and to a knowledge of his own history is wrapped up in a fast-paced, intriguing plot. Who is Richard's real family? Can the wrong in his past be righted? Will he bring himself to see the truth of Jesus Christ, not as a domineering, hard-hearted ruler but as a wise, loving, and caring Creator?
The Baron's Apprenticeship is an excellent sequel to the trilogy of the curate, Thomas Wingfold. Targeted to people who consider themselves to be moral and good, it reveals the truth of God's nature and our own need to respond to Him. MacDonald writes, "One of four gates stands open to us: to deny the existence of God; to acknowledge His existence but say He is not good; to say, 'I wish there was a God,' and be miserable because there is none; or to say 'There is a God, and He must be perfect in goodness or he could not be,' and thus give ourselves to Him heart and soul" (page 69). While the characters of the story must each make this choice for themselves, so are we called to do, as the readers. Adventure, romance, mystery, and deep, thought-provoking truth, come packed together in an excellent novel you won't soon forget...