This is the book that truly returned this series to fulfilling its potential, at least for me. Numerous story lines and subplots are finally wrapped up to clear the way for the Last Battle. Perrin has finally stepped into his role and begun to accomplish what he was responsible for all along. Mat has returned to his irreverent character while fully accepting his role as a reluctant hero. Rand has truly embraced his role and begun the leader that was needed.
Beyond these three main characters there was a powerful, though short, subplot involving Aviendha. Her visions of the future serve as a reminder that the Last Battle, while necessary for the survival of all, does not guarantee the survival of all. Egwene alternated between a competence and arrogance. She is a competent leader in the White Tower and demonstrates her skill at both politics and battle. However, her treatment of Gawyn is belittling to him and unbelievably irrational. While she accepts the need to moderate herself before sisters, she demands almost unquestioning obedience from Gawyn, even when she has not ordered him to do something. She grows angry and frustrated when he does not act in accordance with her unannounced wishes. Her treatment of Rand is similarly disheartening as she assumes that his course of action is wrong with out analyses or review. Elayne is similarly frustrating and continues to serve largely as a waste of attention in this series. Her political maneuvering is mediocre, though it is painted as genius in the story. However, this is all somewhat unraveled in her treatment of Perrin. By threatening Perrin she overplays her hand to gain exactly the fate she is attempting to avoid. Her standing with lords appears to be more important that taking a course of action that is necessary to prevent blood shed, and she seems blind to reason solely because her prerogative is not accepted unquestioningly. Brandon Sanderson has done a wonder with the female characters in this story, though there was only so much he could accomplish with the frustratingly arrogant and one dimensional creatures created by Robert Jordan.