Oh my god, it took forever to get through the first half of this book! A Crown of Swords ended with Mat in Ebou Dar as the Seanchan are invading the city, and he doesn't even make an appearance in this novel. His ending was the cliffhanger of the last book, and then he doesn't even show up? I was very disappointed about that. For the most part, Jordan picks up right where he left off though at a snail's pace. Elayne and Nynaeve had found the Bowl of Winds and enough women with skill and strength in the Power to use it. Naturally, one would think this novel would start with them fixing the weather - which it sort of does after 150 pages! The first 100 or so pages mostly talk about Elayne, Nynaeve and their huge group Traveling and walking to the appropriate place to fix the weather while bickering at each other. However, they finally conduct the appopriate ritual, and then escape the Seanchan with the Kin (Aes Sedai runaways or rejects), the Seafolk women and the rest of their party, enroute to Caemlyn so Elayne can claim her throne.
Rand sent Perrin to Ghealdan to deal with Masema, the Prophet, who has been causing many problems in his name. While there, Perrin runs into Morgase who gives him a false name, and joins his party. While Morgase's storyline has bored me the past few books, I'm actually glad about this development since it means at least some of the characters are converging. Right now, it seems like one of the problems with the series is that each character is off doing their own thing, none of which seem related at all. Of course, all the other random characters don't help either: can we please kill Sevanna already? She's really just dumb and pointless. Egwene continues to struggle for control with the Hall of Sitters as the Amrylin Seat, and tries to make her way as an actual leader rather than a puppet.
The last part of the novel started to pick up a little bit. Rand decides to go after the Seanchan (unfortunately, he isn't written as a very appealing figure to me; he's sexist and I'm so tired of hearing about how much harder he takes every woman's death), and while he seems intelligent enough, he is too cold and boring to make for a charismatic leader or character. I also enjoyed the chapter about the search for the Black Ajah in the White Tower.
The best part about this novel honestly is where it ended: there are several things finally really in motion, and based on where the novel ended, it seems like quite a few things could finally come to a head in the follow up. However, considering that this is book 8, and there are still five or six left, it seems like Jordan is probably going to continue to drag things out with way too many descriptions about dresses, and reiterating things over and over that readers already know (Lan's favorite colors are blue and green).