The story is not as connected as it was, not to say that the writing is not as connected, but each of the characters gets to go their own way, even if it is for only a short time. I like that the characters can come back together, but I enjoy it more when they go off on their own adventures and then come back together.
I'm still listening to the audiobooks and am enjoying them immensely. When my attention wanders, the story progresses and I can pay attention again when I realize I haven't been. I was trying to figure out what I liked about this book so much. I think it may have something to do with the lack of story from Rand's point of view. I enjoy most of the characters stories, but when it comes time to tell Rand's, I'm just not that interested. This book actually tells the same story from many different sides. You keep getting updated about Rand, but it doesn't spend much time inside his head.
One thing I love about these books is the parallels to our history. My brother has mentioned to me that he considers the different ages to be what we would consider a parallel universe. Things may be similar in some ways, but they are never quite exact. You can see this in the heroes of legend, Artur Hawkwing, Brigitte (who could totally be Sif). My brother also postulates that Matrim Cauthon could be Odin. There are many parallels, but it's too early in the series to mention all of them. As I get farther into the series I will come back to this point and my ideas about different characters. The point of this is that it is fun to try to puzzle out and I really appreciate that Robert Jordan took the time and the effort to put all those little details in place.
Blood and bloody ashes, I don't know how I feel about the language in this book. There are times when I consider the analogies and comparisons to be unique and clever, but some things are completely overdone. If I hear Mat say, "blood and bloody ashes" one more time... ugh. Normally, I love the creativity in language. This book didn't have very much of that. I know that it changes with the different people groups that come in with different languages. So, I can't base my liking of the language on just one book.
The idea of Tel'aran'rhiod is explored more in this book by several different characters in different ways. It's like introducing a completely different world to explore with different rules. It's almost as if Robert Jordan had several different stories in his head and he wanted to be able to make them all happen, but they couldn't because of the "rules" of the world he created. So, he created another world where all the stories could be told. I'm a fan.
So, my response to this story. I liked the third book better than the first two. I have a feeling crazy Rand stories are going to take up a lot of the next book and I'm not sure I'm ready for that. We'll see.