I read my first Gaiman book last year--American Gods. It is one of the better books I've read in a while. I had seen the movie adaptation of Stardust, and figured I would like the book.
Like most of Gaiman's work, Stardust is fantasy adventure. The story takes place in the small village of Wall, in the fields of England. The village is named after the high stone wall that runs beside it. Tristran Thorn, a young man who lives in the village, makes a impetuous promise to a young girl one night. Upon seeing a falling star, he vows to go find it and return it to her. Tristran finds out that he is not the only seeker of the fallen star. Others seeking the star include three princes vying to take control of their ailing father's kingdom and a witch-queen.
There was a portentous tone to American Gods. The tone of Stardust was the complete opposite: everything was a lark. One could almost hear Gaiman saying, "Isn't this book just crazy?" as the pages turned. There were a few points where this whimsical nature broke down somewhat, where things got "real," gritty, adult even. I think this is what Gaiman intended. Stardust is a fairytale, but one that has grown up.
As a side note, reading this book gave me a perfect example of why I love books--actual books. I took this from a bookshelf in my girlfriend's parents' house. It appears the last person to have read it was her younger sister. She left post-it notes with comments on the writing and some with seemingly random thoughts and doodles. This is a kind of tangible link that books can create between people.