In this section, Perrin undertakes the long search for his wife.
The sequence consisting of Faile’s abduction and eventual reunion with Perrin begins in The Path of Daggers (Book 8) and ends in Knife of Dreams (Book 11), over a publication span of seven years. I suspect it’s the lengthy publication dates more than the writing that is at fault for making this one of fandom’s least favorite plot lines. A closer look will tell us more.
Perrin was last seen discovering Faile’s capture, and hastily setting out in pursuit of her abductors. We return to him now twenty-two days later, after he has learned some hard lessons. Perrin is not a hasty person. He usually considers things, takes his time, and thinks things through before acting. At first he didn’t do any of those things when pursuing Faile, and it cost him a chance to get her back. As usual, Perrin uses a blacksmithing analogy, reminding himself that haste ruins metal.
Having learned the hard way, Perrin is staying true to his nature now, proceeding cautiously, meticulously, and determinedly. He is gaining ground on the Shaido, slowly but surely. He thinks of himself as a hammer, moving with purpose to strike its target. Now, every action, every tool, every relationship is viewed exclusively in the lens of how it can help him rescue Faile.
Balwer tells Perrin he is clever, but Perrin thinks it is simply the result of his nature, thinking and considering before acting.
Aram reveals his mistrust of Aes Sedai, Balwer, Selande, heck, practically everyone. Perrin says you have to trust somebody.
Perrin finds Darkhound tracks circumventing the camp. Their presence was felt in his dream, which did not take place in Tel’aran’rhiod. It begs the question of whether Darkhounds can also enter Tel’aran’rhiod. If they are supposed to confront each other in the Last Battle, then Tel’aran’rhiod is the only place suitable for them to congregate.
The Darkhounds were looking for someone else, and the only plausible someone or something is Rand, Mat, or the Seals. The timing corresponds roughly to when Rand may have left Far Madding, vanishing from the Forsaken’s radar. They obviously knew he was there when they sent the Asha’man to kill him, but could have been urgently searching for him if they discovered he had left the city. Whatever the case, they are trying to avoid notice, so they circumvent Perrin’s camp.
A great deal of discomfort is caused by Perrin learning of secret meetings between Masema and the Seanchan, and Masema and the Aes Sedai. While there could be reasons why Suroth would extend a hand to Masema as a regular part of advancing the Return, the letter from her is more likely to signify they work for the same dark master, since we already know Suroth is a Darkfriend. Masema would have to perform mental gymnastics to rationalize working with Darkfriends, but he’s already made an exception for Perrin, who he thinks is a tame Shadowspawn. The problem with vague possibilities of characters teaming up for some vague reason is that it is vague, and doesn’t clearly direct the reader anywhere. If the intent is to confuse the reader, or introduce doubt, then it can succeed wonderfully. The link from Suroth to Masema to Aes Sedai to Wise Ones creates a resilient doubt about whether any of them can be trusted, despite the vagueness of the secret relationships between them. Berelain herself now puts more stock in Perrin than in her own advisor Annoura.
Masema serves as a counterpoint to Perrin. Perrin’s single-mindedness is leaning towards the fervor of Masema’s logic. Someone who disregards all else for a single purpose is insane. Masema warns Perrin that all else is dross and trash, but you could substitute Masema’s dedication to the Light for Perrin’s need to find Faile. Perrin’s sequence opened with his dream of Darkhounds, and in it the Darkhounds’ presence spurs a mad thought: Hatred, and a sure knowledge of death coming. There were no choices to be made, not now. He ran harder, toward death. The search for Faile threatens to be Perrin’s undoing. Changes to his character from his own choices will kill him as effectively as any weapon could.
A strong association between two characters can be passed along to other characters through weak associations.