Their mission: to find descendants of the Empress' sister. Their problem: keeping body and soul together long enough to get to where those descendants were last known. The solution: they join the circus. Really. It's not called a circus and they don't have animals, but it's basically the circus -- a traveling troupe of performers with wagon that do shell games, contortionism and assorted other things to separate the speccies ("rubes") from their money. Did I mention the circus had been cursed? No?
Well, of course a waif adopts them along the way, after trying to steal Lee's purse. And inevitably, in this land of everything not what is expected, Taro is considered plain and Lee is lovely. Silliest of all, Lee's skill at bench dancing, once suitably remolded into something Highly Inappropriate (scantily clad with body makeup, of course!), is what motivates the circus to accept them both. Taro is only good for manual labor.
Antics ensue. Of course the Empress didn't tell them stuff they really needed to know. Of course the legal system, such as it is, is very different from what they are accustomed to. Blah blah.
It was enough fun to make me sure I'll read the next one. I cannot imagine this would be an easy series to pick up in the middle.