There are no beginnings or endings to the Wheel of Time series but there is plenty of room for re-reading. However, unfortunately - at least for myself - this is the point in the series where everything started to become slow. I don't find that it became any less enjoyable, but nothing really happens in this book and in the two following. From books 8 to 10 the material could easily have been condensed into one solid 800 page novel rather than three separate 600 to 800 page novels.
What Robert Jordan did at this point in my eyes is to stretch his material, apparently losing track of his grand and sprawling world, to the point where he lost complete control of his pacing. I find that pacing can be crucial for a novel. There have been novels I have read which were brilliantly plotted yet the very end was hastily strung together to resolve the crisis. The climax lost its power and deus-ex-machinas became a highlight as a result. This is what I feel happens to a degree in this novel. I've mentioned that Jordan has a tendency to allow other previous novels to end in a rush of action after a slow crawl, however this novel happens to feature a particularly rushed conclusion. The pace of which throws the balance of the novel out of alignment.
The plot focuses on nearly all our main characters. However the big flaw of this novel is that a drawcard character - Matrim Cauthon - has no scenes, whatsoever in this novel. The invasion of the Seanchan happens around him and he is not featured once
. I'm a firm believer that if you, as a writer, are not the most skilled artiste with your use of language, that you have to use what you do have to the best. I did not receive the sense from this novel that Jordan did that. His prose is passable certainly, yet as a writer lacking the power of greater literary stylists, for him to write a novel not utilising drawcard characters, is in my eyes a mistake.
Apart from the usual political scandals or battles rocking the world of The Wheel of Time (or Randland as it is otherwise nicknamed by the fans) very little happens in this book. That is until the end, which is why as mentioned before the pacing feels off for this entire book. It meanders until the end. Of course I personally find that it meanders in an entertaining if not profound way and then tries to set up a series of events for the following novel.
On the whole I would state that, as when I first read this novel, this is a lowlight in an otherwise monumental series. It certainly is a passably adequate novel, yet it lacks the storytelling power of other books in the series. I believe strongly that Jordan's series is one in which the ideas and the story is greater than the novels themselves at times. Save for books 3,4,5 and 11 onwards which are excellent as novels in my eyes.
Take it or leave it, The Wheel of Time is a great achievement of a series. However it tends to be one of those series read mainly for the entertainment aspect. The writing is merely adequate, the characters wax and wane and the battle sequences as a point of difference are thrilling. It is a masterpiece in my eyes, yet one which has incredibly visible flaws. And I somehow like it all the more for that.