I finished A Crown of Swords last night (well, not completely, I still have some of the last chapter and epilogue to go) and it was much much better than I remember. The way that LoC seemed disappointing and dragged, this one felt the complete opposite (and I finished it in a week as opposed the month LoC took me). Okay, the Egwene parts really dragged. She has quickly become my least favorite character upon reread, not because of her character but because her chapters are so boring. I'm sure Elayne and Faile will rise to compete with her in the next few books, but as of right now I groan inwardly whenever I see it's a chapter about her. Partially because I know she's going to be in pretty much the same spot for the next several books.
Rand infiltrating Darlin's camp and Fain's fog-monster attack (I forget the name of it right now) was almost like reading it anew as it has been so long since I read those pages. I almost completely forgot about those events.
I did not enjoy or find particularly funny Mat getting raped by Tylin, as that was much more odious this time around. And maybe it's because I knew he was toast but I found Nalesean much more compelling the first time I read the series and his loss felt like a genuine loss. This time around it was just sort of "meh." I did really enjoy the scene with the gholam and Mat's badassery with, "You can't bloody have her" while swinging the medallion at it.
That said, this is the book I've enjoyed most on my reread so far. I think it's partially because I've never reread any of the books after LoC and partially because I know the next books are sitting right there ready to be picked up. One of the major reasons I disliked ACoS was the Mat cliffhanger and knowing I'd have to wait 2 years to find out what happened, only to discover I'd have to wait two more years because NO MAT IN POD!
I'm hoping I can enjoy the other "slow" books as much as this one. Maybe knowing there is another one to pick up right after instead of waiting for years will help improve the flow which will no doubt help improve the quality in my mind at least.
And now some comments from the previous thread discussion:
Any number of things we can be sure will involved in the Last Battle are outside Rand's abilities, tel'aran'rhiod being the most important of these.
That's not necessarily true. He can access tel'aran'rhiod, just not through his dreams.
I'd like to believe that Jordan was capable of constructing something as epic as the Last Battle in such a way that the contributions of various armies and of individuals other than Rand feel truly relevant and necessary
I dunno, I think it would be rather easy to make their contributions important. After all, a massive horde of Trollocs is already making their way down into the Borderlands. Caemlyn has been destroyed and those Trollocs are also likely on their way to cause more destruction.
The armies are going to be needed in order to assure there is something left after the Last Battle.