This is a series of short stories featuring Lin Mei, her brother Biao Mei and two cats they have adopted (or vice versa). The first story sets the physical and historical scene. Lin Mei is 17, a groom in a caravan along the borders of the Chinese Empire. Her brother is 15, a guard in the same caravan. The caravan stops at a deserted temple for the night and, as foretold in a dream of Lin Mei's, they find two kittens whose mother died defending them from a weasel. In the process of getting milk for the kittens, they spot an intruder and sound the alert, saving the caravan from assassins and earning Lin Mei a promotion to guard.
In the next two stories the caravan is hired by a wealthy merchant to guard his home and warehouse. These flow smoothly as a group. In the last two stories they are secret agents for the Imperial Security Service, one set in Tibet and the other in an oasis on the southwestern edge of the Taklamatan Desert.
The reader is immediately immersed in Central Asia in the 9th and 10th centuries CE. The characters feel real and the descriptions are vivid. The magical and the mundane interweave perfectly understandably.
My only problem is with what is not there. A vague reference to their family having been "wiped out" and another to an uncle and to "winning back" what is theirs is the nearest it comes to an explanation of how two teenagers of obviously well-to-do backgrounds come to be working as caravan hands. Their sudden transformation to Imperial secret agents is left to the imagination as well.
There is a note that the author is planning to turn the series into a book. I will look forward to adding a fifth star to my rating when that happens.