This is one of the hardest books to rate; I thought long and hard whether to give this book 3 or 4 stars. I also could not take an easy path and give this book 3.5 stars; more on this later.
Perrin's subplot takes up the first quarter of the book. Perrin spends his time brooding and being miserable. To be fair, he comes to his senses from time to time; when he does he makes pointless talk. He also snaps at the people who really try to help him. It is really sad to see a pathetic human being which Faile made out of him. In her absence he runs around like a headless chicken somehow forgetting he has a ragtag army which entirely depends on him. Well, tough luck guys and girls: you commander is too preoccupied with his personal problems to care about you any. To make a long story short, this part is painful to read.
To be completely fair, that first quarter of the book I mentioned also contained a prolog which was relatively short by the series' standards. It contains - among other things - an interesting announcement by Rand.
Elayne's plotline comes next. Despite the fact that her plot moves in exactly the same direction as Perrin's: nowhere, her part is really refreshing to read after his. These two occupy first half of the book. One thing of note in here: Nynaeve finally becomes very useful; she is forced into this, but she really does her best. Basically, this is the book where she grows from the most annoying character into one of the most awesome.
The second half of the book finally gets back to Mat: it took Jordan long enough considering the fact that the guy was not in the previous book. Mat's subplot is uneven: very interesting and exciting parts follow by complete screeching halt and vice versa. At least the slow parts in his case are justifiable as he is currently in situation where he cannot do much if anything at all; his frustration is clearly shown.
Rand's part comes last and while it has its occasional boring parts, on the whole this last part of the book gives adrenaline rush to its readers. The end of the book is up there with Dumai's Wells from book 6; it moves the overall plot forward by a long stretch and really make big power shift, especially among the Forsaken.
As I mentioned Mat's parts really save this book from 2 star rating; Rand's grand finale gives it at least very strong 3 stars. As to 4 stars, it really depends on whether you think the excitement of Rand's part overcomes Perrin's non-stop brooding. If so, the final rating is 4 stars; otherwise it is 3. I still think Rand's actions and resulting power shift warrants higher rating.
This review is a copy/paste of my BookLikes one: http://gene.booklikes.com/post/786140/a-very-hard-book-to-rate