The third book in the Wheel of Time series moves at a much faster pace than the previous volumes. Which isn't to say it moves quickly, mind you, but the main characters are firmly established and so is plot. The Wheel of Time still moves at a languid pace, however, with Rand al'Thor nowhere near close to fulfilling his destiny. Robert Jordan manages the feat of making you feel like you're moving forward, however, and that's all I require from this volume of the story.
The book begins with Rand al'Thor having assembled an army of followers after defeating Baal'zamon over the skies above the Seanchan last volume. Heroes of legend joined him in battle and he announced to the world he was, in fact, the Dragon Reborn. Progress since then has been limited with Rand mostly sitting around his camp, struggling to deal with his madness. As a male channeler, he is doomed to insanity and there's nothing he can do about that.
Well, nothing except decide to leave. In what is the least enjoyable part of the book, Rand decides to abandon his army and just go off somewhere else to do anything else. Thus, Perrin and Moraine are forced to track him down for an extended part of the book. I'm not a fan of this plotline since Rand is almost incoherent during the entirety of it, trapped in his tormented visions and self-pity.
The other parts of the book make up for it.
The best part of The Dragon Reborn deals with Egwene, Nynaeve, and Elayne dealing with their induction into the Aes Sedai. The Aes Sedai are the most powerful political movers and shakers in the land but are torn by infighting. On one hand, they have the Amyrlin Seat working covertly to support the Dragon Reborn while the majority of them believe it is their duty to prevent the Dragon from taking over the world. On the other, you have the Black Ajah which serves the Dark One and could be any member of the organization but our heroines.
There's some genuinely strong passages during the Aes Sedai portions of the book like Egwene's trials to become one of the Accepted. These hint at likely story points in the future and also give her some serious character development. As bad as her trauma at the Seanchans' hands were last volume, it is nothing to what she suffers forging herself into someone capable of redeeming the Aes Sedai.
We also get a lot more insight into the Aiel race who are noted for being the people who birthed Rand al'Thor as well as being fanatically loyal to him. Unfortunately, they are not Robert Jordan's best creation being little more than fantasy-ized version of Dune's Fremen. I'm not saying that he got the idea from them and they don't have their own character after awhile but the similarities were distracting.
The big change in the book is the redemption of the character Mat. For two books, Mat has been nothing but an enormous load on the group. This is mostly due to the influence of a cursed dagger but it made me hate him to a ludicrous level and hope for his conversion to the Dark Side so Rand could kill him. Instead, the book managed to turn the character around completely and make him quite likable.
I was also a fan of new character Faile, who is a hunter of the (already found) Horn of Valere. The fact she's desperate to find it only for the heroes to not reveal her quest is in vain is as much a part of her enjoyment as her saucy personality. I do think she's a bit too harsh on Perrin but being a fan of anime, I get that she's just a woman who doesn't know how to speak to people without berating them.
In conclusion, The Dragon Reborn is a book which shows Robert Jordan settling into his role as a master storyteller. We don't need as much explanation as we did in previous volumes and this plays into his strengths. There's perhaps too many characters and too much foreshadowing (almost to the point of telegraphing) but more than enough for me to say this is my favorite book in the series thus far.