The Matriarch Matrix , the debut novel of Maxime Trencaval, is very timely in its near future focus on Kurdish nation building given the recent referendum in which Iraqi Kurds voted for independence. The ancient story line of The Matriarch Matrix that takes place in the prehistorical Black Sea region, deals with an artifact with mysterious powers and how a family’s connection to it impacted their descendants. It all sounded fascinating to me which is why I purchased the book, and I am reviewing it for Bookplex.
There is an association of the artifact with aliens, but I felt that this was a side issue. The paranormal content gave The Matriarch Matrix a patina of fantasy. I wouldn’t categorize this novel as science fiction.
Although this book has been compared to The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown never portrayed a character with as much complexity as the contemporary Zara Khatum, a woman who is both a warrior and a devout Muslim devoted to her family and the future of the Kurds. She could be both ruthless and compassionate, independent and racked by self-doubt. These inner contradictions riveted my attention on her throughout the novel. I imagine that the female figure on the cover is Zara at one of the archeological sites where she and her companions searched for the astonishing artifact known as The Object. I was glad to see her dressed appropriately for a woman of her religious background.
I have to admit that it was hard for me to be as impressed by the rather nerdy American, Peter Gollinger. The author seemed to be continually highlighting his timidity or clumsiness for comic relief. If she wanted people to respect Peter, why was she continually undercutting him? I felt that Trencaval was playing into stereotypes about intellectuals. This made me appreciate the character less. I also considered his prehistoric ancestor more admirable than Peter.
I preferred one plotline over the other. There were strong women in the prehistoric flashbacks, and I valued the role of the ancient characters as culture bearers. Yet I read those scenes for conceptual reasons. I felt more invested in the 21st century events and characters. I am usually much more interested in exploring the past, but The Matriarch Matrix didn't bring prehistory alive for me.
It was Zara and her family context that made this book memorable for me. She made up for any shortcomings. Readers won’t forget this Kurdish woman in a hurry.