This might just be me, but the attitude conveyed in these books about sex is weird. On the one hand, all the characters seem incredibly squeamish about sex, constantly judging people's clothes for being to revealing and calling people too forward (Perrin looks at Berelain in shock when she tells him he would only be 3rd, and it really seemed like he thought that was a lot - then again, maybe he was shocked that she was propositioning him after his wife was kidnapped), but on the other hand, the novels are oddly obsessed with sex. So many pages are devoted to descriptions of dress styles, and how the women in different nations have such low neck-lines and the women's "bosom" are barely contained. Considering that this seems to be the style everywhere but Andor, I would expect Jordan and the characters to stop commenting on this. One character comments that she likes cuddling as much as "the other" - newsflash: if you're old enough to do it, you're old enough to call it sex, fucking, whatever.
So there was a bit more progress in this book, though Mat still didn't show up until over halfway through! After the prologue, the first few chapters focus on the events immediately after Faile and her parties' capture by the Shaido, and her initial impressions of the camp (so ready for the Sevanna story line to be done). Perrin is heartbroken and is about ready to ignore his primary mission of getting Masema, the Prophet, under control due to his desire save his wife. Fortunately (?) for him, Masema agrees to go with him to help save Faile and her entourage. And that's basically it for that storyline. Faile is still kidnapped, and Perrin is mad. Of course, that's still more face time than Egwene gets who only shows up in a dream meeting with Nynaeve and Elayne, despite the fact that she was about to lay seige to the White Tower in the last novel (apparently, Jordan likes to end novels on cliff hangers for certain characters and then ignore them for an entire book - see Mat in A Crown of Swords and not at all in The Path of Daggers).
A good portion of the novel is spent with Elayne as she tries to gain the right to her throne. She is housing three different groups of women that can wield the Source in the palace, all of whom have varying approaches and disagree a lot (the Kin, the Sea Folk and Aes Sedai). For the most part, this section wasn't necessarily exciting or boring; it was just kind of there. Rand also has a plan to cleanse the male half of the Source and visits Caemlyn to involve Nynaeve in this. At this point, Rand finds himself in the same room with Aviendha, Min and Elayne, all women that he is in love with who are in love with him, and two of whom he has had sex with. The women all immediately tell him they are willing to share him, have come to an arrangement and bond him as their shared warder. This whole story line bugs me. Seriously, I still don't see anything that great about Rand. And then there is this whole weird voyeuristic feel to the whole thing since the warder bond means that the women can feel Rand's emotions as he is finally having sex with (and impregnating) Elayne, making for three out of three.
However, Mat's storyline finally progresses: he is still in Ebou Dar and serving as a playmate to the queen, Tyelin. The Seachan have taken control of the country, and a woman named Tuon shows up as well, a high-ranking Seanchan woman, Daughter of the Nine Moons. This is the woman that Mat was prophesied to marry many novels ago, although she doesn't share that part of her title upon arrival, and only the reader knows. Mat is plotting to escape Ebou Dar and Seanchan control, and promises to help a few Aes Sedai that have been captured.
A few characters from previous novels make a few appearances as well (there are Black Ajah in Caemlyn), and the Aes Sedai hunting for Black Ajah in the White Tower find their first. Just like in the last one, the fact that certain characters are now in the same city etc. means that it is slowly coming together. However, there are still a few plot lines that just need to be wrapped up ended. There are so many characters that just kind of show up, and barely serve a purpose, and so many of their names are almost the same, especially amongst the Aes Sedai - there's Lelaine and Leane, but at least they have large enough roles to keep straight. I'm just glad I'm reading these now that almost all of them have been released - at least, I just have to wait for the next Amazon order to show up to get a few more chapters about the characters I'm actually interested in. If I had to wait a year or two between novels with only so little progress and pay off, I would probably have been incredibly frustrated (kind of like it was a good thing I didn't start watching Lost until the sixth season was almost over), but as it is, I can at least get the answers eventually instead of having to wait forever. One thing that surprises me so much about the Amazon reviews though is when the talk about multi-dimensional Jordan's world and characters are - I'll give him world, although I'm not sure if crowded necessarily three dimensional, but characters? Maybe in the beginning, but since then they have all become shallow caricatures with few exceptions. Even Min was really annoying me in this one, and I generally prefer her to any of the women in the square (Elayne being my least favorite) - just too much hero-worship for Rand (when they bonded, all the women started crying because of the pain he feels - gah - a few more lines like that I might have to "sniff, pull my braid, and cross my arms below my breast").