I <3 the Wheel of Time series a ton, and therefore Robert Jordan, but...
I felt the same way, that some of the characters changed in this book, but for the better. Finally, some of these people are freaking growing up! For example, at one point, Rand gets something wrong, and Aviendha thinks to herself that he's not an idiot - he just doesn't know better on this one, and she needs to teach him about it. That NEVER would have happened in a Robert Jordan Wheel of Time book, and it REALLY needed to. He would have had her go off on a rant for several pages about what a moron Rand is and how can she be expected to deal with a moron like him who can't even get simple things right!!!!!!!!!!
So yeah. Love the series, but also love the way the new guy has honored the old stuff, but still made some of the changes that absolutely had to happen in order to get to a good ending.
Oh, and yeah - Ituralde is a pretty cool guy. My feeling is that he's basically Napoleon, except that he's not in a position to take over the world himself.