Growing up I always admired the cynical roguish charm of Anderson's Dominic Flandry and I'm quite grateful to Baen and Hank Davis for republishing this series, which holds up well after all these years. Yet I hesitated on this second (of 4 volumes) as the first two stories aren't about Flandry at all, even though they are set in the same universe. Baen obviously wanted to republish the complete collection so from the perspective of completeness they could not have dropped the first two stories.
"Outpost of Empire focuses on John Ridenour, a xenologist sent to report the planet Freehold, home to Hugh McCormac whom readers might remember from the Flandry novel "The Rebel Worlds". The first section is dry and overly pendantic, which Anderson himself recognizes and tries to defuse by having Ridenour say "God Lord, I have found a man who can out-lecture me." He's not the most interesting protagonist but there is an satisfying reversal where the primitives turn out to be more sophisticated than others think.
The second tale is a full novel "The Day of Their Return", which does bring in Flandry's arch rival Archaraych and his allies of circumstance the Ythrians. At the start the protagonist in this game of wits is Chunderban Dessai who's job was to reestablish local rule and allegiance to the Terran Empire. Then the focus becomes Ivar Fredrickson, First Born of Aeneas, a callow 20 something who is on the run for leading a mishandled attack on Imperial Forces. Most of his adventures are a backdrop to an exploration of different medieval styled cultures leading up to a messianic cult that believes in the immenent return of an elder guiding race, a mix of sectarianism, sword and starship, something that Anderson usually does quite well, but in this case only the last one segment adds to the story. Two thirds could have been edited out in the original publication and nothing would have been lost. The ending itself is great.
Third, Tiger By the Tail was the first Flandry story ever written, and it was as intriguing and thrilling as I remembered. The aggressive Scothanis, with the backing of Merseians are preparing to carve out an empire from the Terran sphere of influence. Flandry is captured by Cerdic, heir to the throne, and that was their big mistake. A few words to the prideful and everything falls apart. Masterfully executed, without this story I'd have rated the book 3/5*.
"Honorable Enemies" is classic silver age SF, asking the question - how do you outwit a telepath who can read your thoughts, pitting the ingenuity and bravado of Flandry against the Cherionite Archaraych. The enabling plot device is obvious but it is applied in an ingenious and satisfying way. The expository background is accomplished by following the characters' thoughts rather than having them explain, which works well as character development.
In "The Game of Glory" Flandry is assigned to the mostly sea world of Nyanza, following through on the last words of a soldier under his command that reveal an incipient rebellion against the Terran Empire. This isn't Anderson's best work - there isn't much thought given to the uprising and there is no background at all to the machinations of enemy alien A'u who appears to be nothing more than a large whale.
Lastly "A Message In Secret" has Flandry sent to investigate the intentions of the ruling king of Altai. His foppish cover is blown far too soon and he is forced to escape to northern reaches of the planet seeking alliance from the Tebtengri and time figure out how to send a message for help. As a story this worked well, and the alien Ice Dwellers complemented but did not magically dominate the resolution.
Excellent space opera and Anderson's observations on the currents of civilization and the subtle subterfuges of effective diplomacy show an appreciation of the role of history and hierarchy in shaping culture.