The Wheel weaves as The Wheel wills - this is Moiraine's favorite saying. In this book all of the Forsaken plot against The Dragon Reborn practically in broad daylight, high lords and ladies in different kingdoms pursue their own interests - the Dark One be damned, and the troubles in the White Tower split the Aes Sedai into two fractions. The interesting part about the latter is that I counted exactly two (arguably three) full Aes Sedai who try to support The Dragon Reborn with only one of them - Moiraine - being able to actively do it. I will talk about her later.
So, what are the major players doing in this book? Mat is the most interesting character in this book, period. Mat is the most interesting character in the series for that matter as well as one of the most interesting characters in fantasy in general. He tries to escape his ta'veren pull only to end up as one of the best generals of the realm with a devoted army.
Rand still tries to understand Aiel culture, be independent from both Aes Sedai and Wise Ones, and learn something useful from his Forsaken pet while keeping him on a leash. He also has to play the Game of Houses (extremely intricate political maneuvering) with the best of 'em.
Perrin is not in the book at all; in fact his name was only briefly mentioned twice. Egwene does not have a POV, but she quickly becomes one of the most arrogant characters in the series, being able to outmatch any Aes Sedai of the Wise One in that department - and this says a lot.
Moiraine on the other hand suddenly learned humility - probably the first Aes Sedai who really knows the meaning of the word - and I found that I can really sympathize with her in the book; sadly she does not have a POV either.
Nynaeve and Elaine try to escape first from a country torn by a civil war and then from Whitecloaks stronghold. They try to reach the White Tower unaware of the changes in there and the fact that they would be treated like prisoners instead of heroes as the pair hope. To make their life more exciting, they are hunted by remaining known Black Ajah lead by an extremely pissed off Forsaken.
Elaine acts sensible and normal for a change; she also does not have a lot of POV in the book. Nynaeve is the reason why some people complain about this book being a little slow at times. I need to explain some things. Nynaeve in the world of dreams shines and nothing she does in there is boring - and some things are outright heroic - but in the real world she still tries to bully everybody into obedience while doing this with a grace of an elephant in a china shop. It works fine as a comic relief, but seems like complete waste of pages if you take it seriously. I also need to point out the she is the only
Aes Sedai - I am talking about a very broad definition of this term - who actually helped The Dragon Reborn, and she did it without any hidden agenda. In fact, she mentioned several times that the only two reasons she became Aes Sedai are to help him and to learn healing; I can support and understand both.
All in all, this is a solid 5 star book with some very occasional slow - but not boring - pages. Expect major power shifts by the end of it.