Second-world fantasy with brainy/scholarly female leads
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Female characters like, say, Nepenthe in McKillip's Alphabet of Thorn, a lovely little book I really need to re-read.
Amalia of The Tethered Mage is something like what I'm looking for, but unfortunately her scholarly side and her interests in artificery and alchemy don't figure very much into the plot. I'm hoping we'll see it come more into focus in the sequel, which, after all, is named for her.
I'm very fond of Jasnah Kholin in The Stormlight Archive. She would be a perfect example, except for one thing:
What I do NOT want: villain protagonists. Elsewhere, someone recommended Cyteen to me. Ariane Emory is just a bit too Evil for my tastes. I'm looking for characters whose moral compass is at least in something like working order. The very last thing I want is any suggestion that love of learning or pursuit of knowledge is inherently corrupting to a woman.
So, who are some of the best scholarly heroines in fantasy, outside of urban/contemporary fantasy?
The prequel can be found in the short story collection The mad scientist's guide to world domination.
The Athena Club consists of Mary Jekyll, Justine Frankenstein, Catherine Moreau, Diana Hyde and Beatrice Rappaccini. If you are not familiar with the last, do look up and read the short story Rappaccini's Daughter by Hawthorne before you begin these stories. Here is a PDF version.
One of the protagonists in The Winged Histories is a singer and lore-master. There are sections of the book that are not dedicated directly to her, but they might prove quite satisfying too as the whole book is about who gets to collect stories and history and to tell them and how.
The protagonist of The Moon and the Sun is a scholar but (1) it is alternate history, not a secondary world, though it is sufficiently alternate that she isn't given too much grief for being a female scholar in 17th century France, and (2) it suffers from other considerable weaknesses that didn't quite break it for me but might for you, so check a few trusted reviewers first I guess.
eta: huh, not sure why the touchstone isn't working...
eta2: now it is. Weird.
Can our modern world very modified only in certain aspects be considered 'secondary'?