Sitting here at a motel desktop the day before a cousin's wedding, and found some time to record my thoughts.
Chapter 6 (Jon I): This chapter seemed to me to be just there to fill in the background. You have to have those every now and then, or your story is a bunch of characters running around through an empty, boring, undeveloped world. Which doesn't work for single novels, let alone sprawling multi-book series. The Watch is planning a huge ranging up north, commanded by Mormont himself. This has raised some hackles, it would seem. The acting First Ranger, who considers himself to not be "acting" at all, thinks he is entitled to take the command. This guy doesn't like Jon much; it seems he was on good terms with Ser Alliser. We get a whole lot of backstory concerning Maester Aemon and his place in the Targaryen royal saga. When you inbreed to the extent the Targaryens have, you wind up with heirs who think they can turn into dragons by drinking flammable explosive liquids. Ummm... yeah. Riiiight. Jon is told all this to test how he feels about his vows with Robb becoming King in the North, and events involving the Starks heting up a bit. Jon sounds more loyal to his vows than he had been. He's found that his rightful place is among the Watch.
Chapter 7 (Catelyn I): Speaking of Robb, let's see what's going on with him. He's losing manpower at a rapid clip as assorted lords are going off to defend their own personal territory. Robb is going to offer the Lannisters terms for peace. Sansa and Arya must be returned (except the Lannisters don't have Arya), Ned's body must be returned, Ice must be returned (and Ser Ilyn will not be happy about that part!), etc. Lord Karstark is disgusted and leaves the room; he'd much rather have revenge for his dead sons. A lot of revenge. He won't be happy until the Lannisters are beaten down like a red-headed stepchild. Cat is learning slowly that raising her son to command, and now to be a King, doesn't always mean he will make decisions that agree with her. He is sending Theon off on his own to enlist Balon Greyjoy's aid. It seems Greyjoy has some ships which will come in handy. Cat thinks Theon is the worst person to send. Robb is willing to let Greyjoy take the Iron Islands off on their own, if they will join his side in the war. So instead of one kingdom, we may have three. Cat has a chat then with her Uncle Brynden, who tells he bad news: more Lannisters are on the way. They need to find a way to force Tywin to leave Harrenhal before they are caught between two armies... Cat suggests an alliance with Renly would do the job nicely. What I wonder is, will Renly be any more willing to accept a shrunken kingdom than Stannis? Or will he think of himself as the rightful ruler of the whole land just like his brother?
Chapter 8 (Tyrion II): It would seem Tyrion has been busy as the acting Hand. He's getting Lord Slynt royally soused in this installment, and consulting with him on who should replace him as commander of the City Watch. I'd been under the impression that Janos would have been continuing in that capacity, he'd just be doing it as a lord now. The City Watch has knights and sers in its ranks, why can't it be headed by a lord? Janos gives Tyrion six names worthy of replacing him, but he holds Allar Deem in the highest regard. It seems Allar Deem was sent to a brothel to kill a woman and her baby. This must be Barra and his mother from Book One. Tyrion suggests Jacelyn Bywater, who Janos isn't too keen on. Then it turns out Tyrion is stripping Janos of his lordship and giving Harrenhal to someone else, and shipping Slynt off to the Night's Watch. Janos's son will be Lord Slynt now... I hope his first act is to change that sigil. It would look fine if the blood were removed from the spear point. Tyrion says the new lord will be given other good lands, and be allowed to build them into a proper seat, with the other sons becoming squires somewhere... never let it be said House Lannister doesn't reward those who serve it well. Actually, that's just the sort of message that exiling Janos to the Wall sends. He was instrumental in stopping Ned's plans to help Stannis take the throne and keeping Joff's position as King. Now Tyrion is making it look like you may be rewarded for serving Lannister well, but whatever you are given may be snatched back from you anytime. Janos didn't do too much to prove himself worthy of being a lord, though. I think he would have kept his status and title if he hadn't been such an ostentatious buffoon since being elevated. Tyrion arranges for Bywater, who is indeed the new head of the City Watch, to arrest Janos and his six favorites and ship them all north to the Wall, although Allar will be lost at sea. Tyrion is mindful of the needs of the Night's Watch, so he sends them a bunch of loathsome, corrupt oafs.
Then Varys shows up to talk to Tyrion, after Janos is carted off. Here we learn it was Cersei's order to kill Barra. As well as Gendry, who it turns out Varys put in the Watch to save his life. I'm not shocked that Cersei would have more of Robert's bastards killed, but I was a bit surprised to see Varys showing some conscience. Tyrion is feeling sure of himself now that he has control over the City Watch (taken from Cersei and Littlefinger), plus the clansmen and a bunch of sellswords. But who really controls the Watch... Tyrion or Varys? This worries the Imp just a bit.