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I read the novel years ago and can not recall the author, name, or even character names.

Its about a young woman who lives in the desert or badlands with her father, they're geological surveyors scraping by. When her father dies she goes deeper in nearby caves than ever before and discovers residents of an underground city mining. From there the story splits and we get to see what life in this city is like, they have an abundance of fruit/timber etc and its revealed they poses some kind of magic that lets them write books to create worlds, and the book itself becomes a portal to that world. I find the magic especially memorable because the world didn't just pop into existence fully formed and populated, it developed over time much like ours did and the girl along with her love interest share a passion for geology and visiting the world they wrote at different periods in its formation. The books/worlds are treated like works of art with publicly available books for everyone's visiting pleasure, but also worlds used to grow food and exotic fruits.

For reasons I can't recall there's another character, the best friend of the love interest, who takes the closely guarded ink/paper and becomes the assistant to a terrorist. We get some POV passages showing them creating a lair and weapons culminating in them gassing the entire city, then walking through the city in hazmat suits destroying all the books citizens had fled to. I can't remember if it was said or implied but this killed the people inside as well. An act of mercy prevents this friend from destroying the book the maincharacter and her now husband were hiding in, and they become the sole survivors of this civilization. The books ends with her grandson, living on the surface, leading an expedition underground to "reclaim his birthright".

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    Sounds like Myst, never read any of the novels though.
    – Harabeck
    Mar 29, 2021 at 21:05
  • @Carlos - Welcome to the site. In roughly what year did you read this book? Also, do you recall any details about the cover? Mar 29, 2021 at 21:08
  • It was Myst: The Book of Ti'ana, @Harabeck pointed me in the right direction, Thank you so much!
    – Carlos
    Mar 29, 2021 at 21:15
  • 1
    Worth self-answering now.
    – Valorum
    Mar 29, 2021 at 21:19
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    @Carlos Glad to help!
    – Harabeck
    Mar 29, 2021 at 22:15

2 Answers 2

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As suggested in comments, this is Myst: The Book of Ti'ana(Wikipedia here). The novel is part of a series of Myst novel tie ins, and is a prequel to the Book of Atrus, itself a prequel to the first Myst game.

The books that become portals to other worlds are very unique elements taken from the Myst series of video games. The civilization that created the magic of these books is known as D'ni, which resides underground on Earth (or something very much like Earth). The magic involves a special ink, paper, and language that describes the world being linked to, after which smaller books can be created for convenience. The linking books provides much of their resources and allows them to survive and thrive underground quite well.

The beginning of the novel focuses on the characters Aitrus from D'ni and Anna from the surface of Earth. The D'ni have finally decided to explore the surface of the world they inhabit, having migrated to their caverns some eras ago via book travel and having an idea of the surface from the Book of Earth that describes it but no direct experience. Their tunnels run afoul of some volcanic activity, and they seal their tunnels after seeing not much but the local desert on the surface. Anna and her father, some time later, are studying the area, and noticing quite a few oddities resulting from probes of the D'ni. Anna's father dies shortly after the tunnel seal is discovered, and Anna sets out on what she thinks might be a one way trip to finish the work but makes it all the way to D'ni proper.

Anna's arrival in D'ni highlights a great many of D'ni's prejudices - she learns the language from, and eventually falls in love with, Aitrus, and takes the D'ni name of Ti'ana. Anna's intrusion into D'ni tradition, and their magic, sets off an intense hatred in Aitrus's best friend Veovis. Over time, Veovis eventually falls in with an extremist and is key to spreading a plague and creating the fall of D'ni. Anna surives the events of the novel. Her son Gehn will eventually become an antagonist in the rest of the series, and her grandson Atrus will guide the player in the video games.

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The book is Myst: The Book of Ti'ana.

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    Can you explain why this is a match?
    – FuzzyBoots
    Mar 29, 2021 at 22:11

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