This book suffered a bit from Wheel of Time fatigue. I've been making a go of essentially reading the whole series straight through, with a few non-fiction books thrown in to break up the monotony. Starting this book, I had little motivation to read it. The story was well told and Brandon Sanderson does a great job of adapting his style to the series. I certainly enjoyed this book much more than the last few installments, and it would most likely have deserved the fifth star had I not forced myself to read the first quarter of the book. Once the story gets moving it is quite captivating. Many of the flaws that marred main characters in previous books were mitigated or removed entirely. Nynaeve is no longer insufferable, though she was becoming a better character in the last two books. Instead she is loyal, insightful, and a conscience for a newly hardened Rand. Egwene demonstrates a strength of character and intelligence that was largely hinted at before she was captured, but she has blossomed in this book. The vengeance she seeks on the Seanchan is very humanizing as it balances the cold and dispassionate attitude she has held to recently. Perrin is finally coming to terms with his need to find his own balance and to be a leader to his people. Rand, while aggravating for much of the book, finally shows some significant character growth. Mat has chapters that are largely similar to what is expected of his character, though he still manages to be among the most interesting characters. Best of all, not a single chapter devoted to Elayne's unnecessary sub-plot.
While I had some difficulty plodding through the beginning of this book, there were several well written scenes that made it worth it. Verin and Egwene's meeting was an amazingly tense and rewarding chapter. The final resolution of Rand's character arc for this installment was very well done and allowed the frustration and madness to really come through. The unexpected comedy between Mat, Talmanes and a few others was exceedingly enjoyable, and I hope to see more of it in the next book. This book is essentially a recharge for the series. It rewards readers who have plodded through three or four books that lacked significant development in either characters or story lines by rapidly resolving several issues. It's clear that Perrin is set up to take a large portion of the story in the next book, with Mat probably grabbing a large section for himself as well. These two have a significant amount of ground to cover in two books. Rand has largely completed his major plot points to set him up for the Last Battle. I would guess that he will play a less important role in the next book and that the final book will split relatively evenly between the four main characters.