I am generally a fan of the series and I thought this installment was mostly enjoyable. It drags on unnecessarily in a number of places, but I'm getting used to Jordan being long-winded (i.e. Character A asks POV character a question. There are then 2 pages of descriptive text discussing the setting, clothing and feelings of POV character. POV character gives 1 word answer). It's true, the plot barely moves forward, with only 2 significant developments occurring. More importantly, this installment had two significant weaknesses for me. One related to this book (and partially to the next book) and one related to the series as a whole.
The more general issue I have is that this seems to be less a book of interconnected stories and more a loose connection of some tangentially related stories that all tie up (hopefully) in the last installment. Even accepting that, I have no idea why Elayne and Perrin get so many POV chapters. Perrin has done nothing of note for 4 books. His accomplishments after Dumai's wells are: 1. Left Cairhien under a ruse to go meet Masema, 2. Met Masema, 3. Tracked down Shaido encampment. This is the extent of his story for 4 books.
Elayne is even more maddening. She is part of the group that uses the Bowl of the Winds in the Path of Daggers. She gets to participate in running from the Seanchan and accidentally blowing up an entire contingent. Then, for two books, all she does is: 1. Become pregnant with Rand's child, 2. Politic to obtain the Lion Throne. Even the politicking is boring though, since it mostly consists of her complaining about her allies internally while being nice externally. There isn't any strategy, or planning, or tactics. She basically lets someone else handle all of this. I cannot understand why Elayne is given POV characters to begin with. She is aggravating on the way to Ebou Dar and has done next to nothing since. Cutting about half of the Nynaeve chapters and all of the Elayne chapters wouldn't hurt the book at all, since their is no indication that Elayne's rising to the Lion Throne is necessary for anything important.
Of course, this is a larger problem with the series. Rand is largely following a hero's journey kind of story line. Egwene is following a more standard "uprising against tyranny" story. Elayne and Aviendha are following more a sisterhood, coming into one's own, story line. Perrin is caught in the "afraid of one's nature" and a damsel in distress, along with a touch of "fish out of water" stories. And Mat is the "no name commoner rises to power" storyline. The problem is all of these characters are in a completely separate story that just happens to take place in the same time frame with minor contact points. There may be a vague overarching goal, but it is so vague that it doesn't really seem to impact anyone for most of the series. This probably would have been a stronger, and much shorter series, if each of these characters were broken out into stand alone books. Jordan could have built the world through telling Rand's story through his POV. Then given each of the other main characters their own series, set in the same world at the same time. There would be a lot of rehashing, but it would be in the sense of "fleshing out" instead of dragging on. It also would have significantly shortened many of these story lines because much of Elayne's story in particular, but also Egwene's and Perrin's only exist because they can be placed in the larger series. Ask theses story lines to stand on their own and they fail.
The more specific complaint is that we leave Winter's Heart on a great climax with Rand. He doesn't appear for the first 500 and change pages of this book, and then he is only around for less than two chapters. We don't see him again until 300 and some pages into the next book. Out of almost 1000 pages, Rand appears for less than 60. He was almost written out of his own series. For what though? So we can learn more about Egwene and her headaches? Or so we can see Elayne sit in her castle and complain about how others are mothering her? Or so Perrin can be restless? There isn't really any reason to cut Rand out of his own story.
These two weaknesses are what cut this story down for me.