It is has sometimes been the habit among writers I know to knock Robert Jordan for his prose, his characterization, or his inability to bring the Wheel of Time to a conclusion. But when I was starting out, I learned so much by studying Jordan, simple things like three characters in a scene gives you more tension than two, that every house divided provides more twists and reversals, and cinematic openings allow readers raised on visual stories easier entry into scene or chapter. Jordan also transformed the Tolkienesque subgenre by letting men and women protag equally on a big scale. From Eowyn to the Aes Sedai is a giant step that high fantasy needed to take. Other writers were making the attempt, but Jordan's was bigger and bolder and resonated with more readers. Seventeen years after the first book, this is so common now that it's hard to remember how fresh it felt in 1990.
Coming out of the short story world, where we're taught to pay attention to every detail and to take care with each brushstroke, it's easy to underestimate Jordan's strengths. He painted on a big canvas, as big as any popular fantasy writer before him, and for all that the plot seemed to bog down sometimes in later books, he knew the elements of a good adventure story and how to use them. I will miss his writing. I am sad that he won't get to tell all the stories that he wanted to tell. Tonight I plan to sit down, crack open The Eye of the World, and remember how much fun it was to read that book the first time I followed the wind as it came down out of the mountains to ruffle the hair of a farmboy named Rand al'Thor.