Peter Vansittart's previous novel, The Game and the Ground, was a starkly compassionate probing of the effects of war on children. The Orders of Chivalry examines, caustically, but not without that same compassion, a mechanized, commercialized, demoralized world whose people have nothing except nerve, where everyone has opinions, none have convictions. The author's strange cast of characters are the promoters of a Festival of London, which is to be a celebration honoring the 2500 anniversary of the founding of the city and which is to include a panorama of the arts, sciences, representative fragments and symbols of earlier ages and a Pavilion of the 21st century. Darting in and out of the preparations are: Guy Keswick, impresario of stage, screen and T.V., not cultured but well-informed, who sees everything as a minor racket and insists that ""the point about life today is that you can get away with anything""; Lord Illius, the bumbling organizer of the Festival; Lenkov, an Oriental ""scholar"", and Marko Zuckerman who had fought in Hungary, the Nazis, the Reds, then his own people, had been driven from Budapest and was a recurring millionaire. Only Natalie, Marko's wife and Alan Curtis, her former lover, are redeemable, because they have remained human in a situation where a posture can always pass for a principle and they agree eventually to leave Europe to the sham which the Festival symbolizes. Vansittart's command of imagery, his astute observation, his masterful manipulation of situation and character, and in general, the intellectual extravagance of his writing creates here an imbalance: the treatment is far superior to the theme.