I'm still working my way through the last remaining Iain M. Banks novels, and have recently finished "Inversions".
This book alternately presents two stories of unrequited love set in a medieval world. One story follows a court physician through the eyes of her apprentice. The other follows the king's bodyguard and chief concubine through war, intrigue, and treachery. Both are very well handled, and as with other non-Culture books like "The Algebraist", Banks shows that he can do just as well starting from scratch as he can extending and expanding his own ideas.
Like "The Steel Remains" by Richard Morgan, "Inversions" is a departure into a new genre, or at least a new facet of the same genre. In fact, if it weren't for a few key points handled in a skillfully vague way, this would be a period romance rather than science fiction.
For readers who are familiar with Banks' Culture novels, there are often forays by citizens of the Culture into less advanced societies. Banks does a great job of taking two engaging and only tangentially related stories set on the same world and making us question whether there isn't some kind of interference by a group like the Culture at work. It would be hard to argue that there wasn't one agent of a higher power at work in the book, and it's tantalizing to consider who (if anyone) might also be more than they seem.
This is a lovely book that still has its share of blood, but is a whole lot lighter than "Against a Dark Background", "Use of Weapons", and "Consider Phlebas". It's a great book, and makes me want to give some of the author's mainstream fiction a try.