A collection of relatively recent short stories and non-fiction essays. The fictional premises verge on the 'hard' side of SF, rather than being fantasy. However, any science is kept mainly in the background, with the emphasis being on telling a story about people. There is some good stuff in here. I find the prose style in the fiction just slightly too lyrical for my liking -- but that probably says more about me than about Anderson (it's certainly infinitely preferable to some of the dreadfully clunky writing that gets published); Anderson has a real feel for language.
Charles Edward Stuart, bookish son of a space captain, is off for a tour of Talyina in the charge of his Hoka tutor, currently being stuffy Oxford don Bertram Cecil Featherstone Smyth-Cholmondoley. It looks set to be a straightforward week, until they discover Talyina is ruled by a tyrant, and the Hoka takes it into his head that his young charge is the Prince of the Prophecy, and takes on the persona of Hector MacGregor, sworn man of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Charlie finds himself swept along by events, and maybe helping an even worse tyrant than the one being overthrown.
This is fairly standard coming of age fare, enlivened mainly by the way Charlie manages to perform the Five Feats of the prophecy, and the chapter titles.
Three stories about the Hokas, a teddy-bear-like alien race that live out extreme fantasy lives. The authors keep explaining that the Hokas aren't mad, but I'm afraid I don't believe them.
A fixup novel of four short stories, these are stories of a parallel world where the magic-quelling properties of cold iron have been overcome. The stories follow the adventures of Steve Matuchek, werewolf, and Virginia Graylock, witch, as they battle various spirits, elementals and demons. The first three stories are entertaining fluff, full of puns and wordplay that contrast features of the magical universe with our own; the fourth, longer one, whilst still full of the fun of the earlier ones, has more substance to it.
It is interesting reading this directly after the earlier Operation Chaos. Again, there is lots of playful fun with names and sayings, but there is yet more substance to the tale. Set ten years or so after "Operation Changeling", Steve and Virginia are involved in the space race, building a vehicle to get to the moon. But someone, actually some rather dark thing, seems determined to sabotage the project, by any means possible. The race is on to find out why, and how, and to foil their plans. Structured like a detective story, this brings together myths and cultures from around the globe: Chinese, Japanese, various Native American, English, Norse.
I found it a little slow to start with (possibly because of the faster pace of the different stories in the earlier fixup novel), but once it gets going, the pace doesn't let up, and has twists and turns in every direction. The prose hints at being a tad too flowery in a few places (do 14-year-olds really use words like "yonder"?), but on the whole the wordplay, the myths, the magic, the characters, and the spaceflight, work wonderfully together.